Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day

I have to admit to being a bit conflicted about St. Patrick's Day now that I live in England. As with so much of other concurrent history (what else do you call the things that went on during your lifetime?) I managed to remain largely ignorant about the struggles between the IRA and the English. I still wouldn't say I know a lot about it.

I know some Irish friends from Dublin who went to school here maybe 10 years ago now. They told me about finding themselves in a taxi queue amongst a bunch of drunk and rowdy Geordies and being frightened to be heard speaking; being Irish in that crowd at that time might well have been dangerous. I've also heard Bob talk about how it felt to have his car checked for bombs when entering the military premises to visit his son, who is in the RAF. I once heard a speaker, retired from the Manchester police, talking about how important it was to clean up the bomb site quickly or at least to shield the view of the damages from the public. Not allowing the mess to remain is one way of demonstrating that the establishment is still in control, not the terrorists. Strangely, I was here in 1996, but I don't remember hearing about that bombing. If I did, I guess I thought Manchester was a million miles away, though I attended a week long course there not long after coming across. I guess I never have watched the news very much...

Of course, it all started with Henry the VIII, the story of whom along with his daughter Elizabeth I began my fascination with England. In their fight against Catholicism they began the 'plantations', sending Protestants to live in Ireland. One can follow why they did it, but boy did it make for a big mess.

When I think of Ireland these days I think about Mo Mowlam and her efforts to bring peace; about the millions who starved during the potato famine at a time when Britain was the richest country in the world; and about my Irish ancestors from County Donegal and County Antrim who went to Scotland, to America and Australia.

I think about the several trips we've made to Dublin (must find my pictures to share with you), a small but lovely city with a very laid back, peaceful feel to it. Time is slower there, somehow. Grafton Street is often lined with buskers, street mimes, juggling and magic acts. Bewleys Cafe and Brown Thomas department store, and of course the Guinness Brewery (it truly does taste different when it hasn't travelled) are all worth a visit. If available, visiting Trinity College to see the Book of Kells is fascinating. I think Celtic
designs are really lovely (Over here it's pronounced Keltic unless you're talking about the Scottish football team, when it becomes Seltic again - go figure). I must also mention my two favourite statues, one of Molly Malone (the tart with the cart) and another the apirit of the Liffey, Anna Livia (Liffey being the River that runs through Dublin - AKA the floozie in the jacuzzi).

So, when I think of Ireland, I no longer think about shamrocks and leprechauns and wearing green to avoid being pinched. That said, the chairman of our running club is a very nice fellow with red hair from Belfast. He's sent around an email suggesting we all wear something green tonight, so I'd best be finding my shamrock pin, right?


TKW said...

Happy St. Patty's day! I'm a European mutt, so I've got a bit 'o the Irish in me! Raising a glass!

Jg. for FatScribe said...

great post. i've enjoyed reading several of your stories. i love that you started your blog to write (me too!) and to share a bit about your life. so sorry to read about the loss of your mum (to use the colloquial phrase from Ireland) in one of your posts. i look forward to reading more!

Shelley said...

Jg. Thanks so much for visiting. I'm impressed that you're a (even allegedly) screenwriter. It wasn't my Mom that died, at least not recently; it was Bill's. At 94 she was due to fall of her perch (and Bill would agree); she was bored with it all. I just hope to live long enough to get bored, you know?

TKW - What was in the glass? :->