Time to dig out the big green floppy hat, orange stick-on beard and Guinness vouchers – wherever they are….
Trust me, they’ll be where you left them this time last year, under the stairs, in the garage or shoved in the loft. So dig them out, dust them off and do that little Michael Flatley jig-a-jig – because today, just about everyone in the world, from the tribesmen of the Serengeti to an Inuit in the Canadian tundra is a plastic Irishman.
No matter how tenuous the link, you’ll find normally sane men and women proclaiming proper Irish ancestry because they once had a weekend in Dublin or their Great Grandfather twice removed found a shamrock – and tonight they’ll all be off on that jolly green pub-crawl enjoying the craic, ditching the real ale for a drop of the dark stuff and talking like Colin Farrell in a really bad Colin Farrell film (which is every single one he’s ever been in, obviously).
I have nothing against our Celtic neighbours, but I do think it rather weird that for 24 hours every March, innumerate English people morph into polypropylene paddies – yet they scarcely acknowledge their own patron Saint’s Day of 23rd April.
Why is that? Why are they so willing to celebrate a foreign country’s national day, but not their own? Some English people undoubtedly would rather take the ABE route. (‘ABE’ – ‘Anyone But the English’).
This for instance taken from Labour politician Claire Short’s essay on what it meant to be English…. whatenglandmeanstome.co.uk/essay/clare-short/
‘I was born in Birmingham and am of Irish origin. My father was from Northern Ireland and strongly resented the partition of Ireland and felt himself to be Irish. My mother was born in Birmingham as were her father and grandfather, but her great grandfather came to Birmingham during the Irish potato famine and she and her family had an Irish Catholic sense of their identity’….
From that first paragraph, it seems obvious that being English means absolutely nothing to Ms Short. She regards herself as an Irish woman living in Birmingham, which she mentions three times, but not once does she reference the country in which it resides. Ireland & Irish are mentioned six times. Interestingly, she also names some of her ancestors who came from Ireland – obviously taking care not to mention any others who didn’t come from Ireland – but were English, because that will dilute her inflated sense of faux Irishness. So Brummie Clare Short is not English, she’s Irish….. OK!
I used to work in a large town, and every morning, on my way to the office, I would walk past a family owned florist shop. This place was a riot of colour – and at every opportunity, they would bedeck the shop to reflect the current special day. Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, Valentine’s Day…. Even St Patrick’s Day was honoured. They would get a consignment of shamrock in and fashion buttonhole sprays from it. These they would sell to the polypropylenes as they trotted off to work. Scores of people would come out of the shop in their nice suits and dresses with a big snotty-green gob of phlegm foliage stuck to their lapels. It wasn’t a great look.
One 23rd April morning, I walked into the florist and asked for a single red rose for my lapel. They looked at me – and yes, they could do one, but they would have to make it up so it would take a few minutes… This surprised me. I mean, I thought they’d have at least a few ready to sell to passing patriots but no, they didn’t have one. But then again, maybe there had been a bit of a rush on – I’d been delayed that morning and it was around 10.30, so it was quite feasible they had run out…
Anyway, the silence got ever more pregnant and to relieve the tension, Maureen the lady who was making the rose buttonhole said “So, going to a wedding then?”
“Are you going to a wedding?… You know, the buttonhole?”
“No, I’m not off to a wedding, I am merely celebrating this country’s national day!”
Blank looks all round.
“Ladies, today is St George’s Day. That is a red rose, and I wish to purchase it right now to shove in my lapel!”
The two ladies faces drained of colour. They’d forgotten, completely forgotten. And then they remembered.
They remembered they had an order for 150 red rose buttonholes to be delivered in precisely one hour’s time to a hotel which was hosting a St George’s Society celebration lunch.
I tutt-tutt-tutted and left – leaving the two floristine traitors frantically ringing round for any spare roses and fronds they could find.
And all that day, I was the only one wearing a red rose who was not going to a wedding or attending a St George’s Society lunch.
Nowadays, it’s getting better. St George’s Day is acquiring celebration status right across the country – and who knows, in the not-too-distant future, our own national celebration of St George’s Day just might start to rival and even overtake the painful St Patrick’s Day ritual in England.
So calling all English people (and that includes YOU Clare Short), forget St Paddy, you’re not Irish, you look ridiculous in that green floppy hat and stick-on orange beard. Forget the Guinness, it’ll only make you constipated, and anyway, it tastes of burnt toast and turns your wee frothy – stick with a pint of real English Ale, God’s own nectar supped in God’s own country.
And when the 23rd of April comes round go and celebrate YOUR culture and YOUR national day – not someone else’s. Forget trying to be a plastic Irish person – become a real oak-hewn English person. Who knows, you might just enjoy it (even you Clare Short!)…
So if you’re Irish on this fine March morn’ – Happy St Patrick’s Day to you. If you’re not then put the Guinness, the orange stick-on beard and the floppy green hat down on the table, and move away. None of this has anything to do with you.