Today is Ireland’s national holiday when the country grinds to a halt, and we celebrate the Welshman who allegedly brought christianity to Ireland, while at the same time banishing the snakes.
Every village and town across the land will be having a parade of some desription where a brass band will play, Irish dancing troupes will dance solemnly with their arms firmly planted by their sides (Michael Flatley and his ebullient hair and arms are not characteristic of traditional dancing), and in some of the bigger parades, there will be troupes of beaming Americans with gleaming teeth, and pom-poms bringing a bit of pizazz and razzmatazz to the proceedings – and they are always welcome so long as they don’t commit the mortal sin and refer to the day as Saint Patty’s Day. That nickname sounds like nails on a blackboard to a native soul.
There will be floats and festivities and great fun will have been had by all.
This year there is even a gaggle of gays marching in the New York City parade where for the past 25 years they have been banned. ‘Oh but it’s a day to celebrate Irishness, what do dem Queers need to be spoiling it all with their demands for green sodomy and depravity’. That always conveniently omits the fact that any and all other groups with even the most tenuous link to Ireland have always been welcomed with open arms. I guess ‘Dem Queers’ were regarded as nothing more than walking acts of mortal sin. Money talks though and now that the corporate sponsors don’t want to be linked with an Ireland with 1950s values, the parade organisers have relented.
This year I am in Dublin for the event. This is the first time since 2000 that I have been in my native land for the celebrations – with 1 notable exception – 2009.
In 2009 I decided that I wanted to experience the day at home so booked a trip. I was going to go see the parade in Limerick City for the first time in my life – as children we never went to the parade. I can semi-guess why – Ireland in March tends to be rain-sodden and dreary; and with hordes of young children I can understand why the crumblies made the executive decision to stay home.
As my sister and I set off from the homeplace to walk the 45 minutes to the city centre we came across a sorry sight at the end of the road. The corpse of our mother’s puppy Sally. Sally had been with the family for a mere 2 months – she had appeared on the doorstep close to death from starvation, having been tossed in a field to die. She was suffering from every disease known to dog, and was hairless and skeletal. After she has wolfed down a couple of slices of bread she was taken to the vet who diagnosed her with everything – she was to remain in quarantine in the garage to prevent infecting other dogs while she was on her medication.
Two months later she was almost fully better – weight had been gained, disease and pestilence had been banished, hair had grown and she was the sweetest little hound on earth. And then she escaped from the garage. Not being used to the outside world she mad her way to the main road where she met her premature end on the main road on St Patrick’s Day. Instead of the parade, I dug a grave in the back garden and she was put to rest.
She does not sleep alone – she is surrounded by an army of deceased guinea pigs cared for by my mother, over the years.
I did not go to the Parade today. The event is like Queensday in Holland -if overwhelming crowds are not your scene then it is wiser to stay home.
Paddy’s Day in Amsterdam was always special – not being an event of any significance to the vast majority of the population you could avoid it entirely if you wished. I never did – I always booked March 18th off from work, whacked on my green jumper and headed to an Irish tavern in town where some live would play U2 and The Dubliners and the Pogues. It felt like a special, yet secret day – where Irish folk and their friends congregated and did what Irish people love to do – drink, laugh, talk a load of old shite, and slag each other.
So I have stayed in for most of today, doing online driving theory tests – and failing them at an alarming rate.
In honour of the day I will be seeing ‘Sing Street’ in the cinema tonight – a movie about a group of Dublin teenagers in the 1980s who form a band with dreams of greatness.
Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all.