When I was younger (so much younger than today-hay-hay-hay – try not singing that now), my alcoholic tipple of choice would be dictated by seasonality: from March 18th to September 15th, I would drink lager. It is summery, fizzy, and can provide a refreshing and ambient belch to a hot beer garden, should we be fortunate enough to witness such halcyon days ever again. This would see me through until the day after my birthday, which would invariably signal the mother of all hangovers. It also ensured that the last thing I wanted to see for the foreseeable future was another pint of the weapon that caused such inner turmoil.
But, as all good hangover veterans know, a cure is needed. Some go for a fry-up, but that would involve moving or functioning, neither of which is possible with a proper hangover. Some swear by a can of Coke and a packet of their favourite crisps. Or how about a good old-fashioned, acidic and eye-watering chunder, accompanied by the gutteral howling of the toilet banshee (normally called “Raaaaaalph!”)?
However, it is common knowledge that the best cure for the hangover, if you can hurdle the potential to hurl, is the next drink. The hair of the dog that bit you, as the proverb states. But, unless you can find a golden, fizzy dog called Stella, you need an alternative antidote. Preferably something more sedate. More cuddly.
In this writer’s case, the local pharmacy (pub) provided pints of black aspirin and fired the starting gun of the Guinness season. As the summer nights slipped into the darkness of winter, so too did the colour and thickness of my drink.
Comforting, allegedly full of useful vitamins such as iron and alcohol, and usually consistent in taste and texture in most bars the length and breadth of these soaking isles, it is a meal in a glass. Also, for one bereft of facial hair, it gave even the baldest of visages the potential for a temporary moustache to rival Des Lynam. But, as with the lager season, this also met its grizzly end on March 18th, the day after the Worldwide Guinness Festival that is St. Patrick’s Day.
As I declared in my last ramblings about the Pope, I was christened a Catholic. That, and the fact that I like Guinness, is as Irish as I get. And, I am afraid to tell a lot of you reading this, it is as close as you are, too. Can I ask you, dear reader, why you would celebrate something that has no cultural link to your own identity, other than knowing the first two lines to The Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’ (which, incidentally, is about Salford, but that is another post in itself)?
Is it because the ‘Oirish’ love ‘the craic’, and we all assume that everyone is welcome to their party? What a patronising approach to a culture steeped in hundreds of years of struggle, artistry and strong beliefs. It is a condescending broadstroke of the stereotyping brush.
Why? Well, for a start, those fucking idiotic hats. You all look stupid in them. Everybody. Without exception. Do you really miss Christmas that much that you need to have some highly flammable piece of tat askew on your drunken head every twelve weeks? It is to the pub what a Homer Simpson tie and matching socks are to the boardroom – it does not instantly signify you have a sense of humour, but is, rather, a 2ft high beacon of twattishness, designed as a clear indicator of avoidance.
I need to make it clear right now, that I wholeheartedly encourage you to celebrate your own national or saints days. And that goes for all of us. Living in a multi-cultural island such as ours, your writer believes that we should embrace each other’s cultures, and encourage the eradication of barriers and stereotyping that are created by ignorance and hysteria, fed by a media hungry to sell papers and gain viewing figures.
But, why would there be more energy and emphasis from Englishmen to celebrate an Irish saint, than their own St. George? Surely there should be an April day of aggressive lager drinking, followed by morris dancing, then some fighting near traffic lights and a Dixie Fried Chicken, completed by a sit-down street-curry, with the world’s longest naan bread, as children with ASBO’s swing from bunting. Are we that ashamed of our own identity that we feel no need to celebrate it? Er, ok. We’re a lot more William Shakespeare than Jeremy Kyle, and we should not forget that, and celebrate it.
The flag of St. George itself was treated like a dirty rag, monopolised by right-wing nationalists, until it was reclaimed by the reinvention of middle class football at Euro ’96, when football very nearly came home – then subsequently became the German footballing anthem, an event so ironic that Alanis Morissette disappeared upwards into her own sun-drenched cloud.
And the Union Flag belongs to the last night of the Proms, and women of Wimbledon, who, after the fist-pumping, broken-box-of-tic-tacs-toothed, serial failure of ‘Tiger’ Tim Henman, have latched on to Dunblane’s own Butthead, the charisma-dodging but brilliant tennis player, Andy Murray. For the record, he is Scottish. And he is proud of it. And no Englishman should be offended by that, but admire it as he values his patriotism fiercely.
But on Burns night, do we all put on kilts, drink whiskey, watch Trainspotting and push for a referendum of independence? Or at St. David’s day, do we throw a rugby ball around, get our mates together to sing in a choir, or eat lamb chops? Nor in the US, do caucasians ‘black up’ for Martin Luther King Day. No, we don’t. So why do it for St. Patricks? You see how it easy it is to stereotype and cause offence, now, right?
Unless you are going to read the wonderful words of James Joyce, Robert Burns or Dylan Thomas, or at least try to improve your knowledge of why these moments are celebrated, or at least try to educate yourself with the culture that spawned the pride with which our fellow nations celebrate, you’re more plastic than a Munich version of ‘Three Lions’.
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