This is a blog hop. Mark Koopmans is running the Got Green? Blog hop in honour of St Patrick’s Day. The challenge asks us to write anything about our Irish eyes or something.
Firstly, I claim Irish ancestry (I also claim Scottish ancestry, and New Zealand Maori ancestry – totally different story). My Irish ancestry comes from my birth parentage – I was adopted at birth.
Being a kiwi or even here in Australia where I live now, having Irish ancestry is not an unusual thing. There were a lot of Irish convicts on those settler boats back then, too. Most of my friends can claim similar blood heritages. But finding out i could, when researching into my own origins, put a different slant on the spectacle that is St Patrick’s day over here.
At the time of this discovery I lived in the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington. Wellington, like most of the antipodean cities, has a fabulous cafe and bar culture. Down Courtney Street are many pubs and bars which are frequent weekend night Hangouts for city workers. One of them is an Irish bar, which on St Paddy’s day, is obviously incredibly popular – providing you can stomp up the extortionate door charge on the night.
On most St Patrick’s Day nights out, I would frequent with friends one of those bars in the city, but after my discovery, I was happy to pay the door charge to get into the overly packed Irish pub to try out the ambience of the night. Unfortunately, I don’t like Guiness (although I’ve actually visited the Guiness Brewery in Ireland) and even more unfortunately, I really don’t like Irish diddly-diddly music.
On this particular night, the pub had brought in exactly that – a couple of Irish fiddlers who didn’t have the greatest of voices on the cover songs either. Or maybe I just needed to have imbibed more to have the appreciation that my fellow pub-mates appeared to have.
Giving up my position in the bar only took a couple of hours of sober torture. My place was readily replaced by somebody waiting at the door. The streets and other bars were full of the Irish celebrations I more enjoyed – green hair, glitzy top hats, fake red leprechaun beards – and on the men, even more garish costumery celebrating our joint heritages. It was a good night, like many others before and after.
I’ll return now to the present, where it is actually officially St Patrick’s Day already, and morning television is celebrating with the normal non-PC irish jokes, token lepruachan pins, four-leaf clover banners, River-dancing hops, and talk-like-an-Irishman accents.
Right now, the news is announcing proudly that the “green wave” is moving across the world – Niagara will be turning green, as will the Leaning Tower of Pisa (the last seems odd to me, and I ponder if we’ll one-day see the Irish takeover the Sphinx or perhaps an Asian temple).
I contrast all this with my experience of being in Dublin on the actual day a few years back. I had been sent there for a prolonged work project, and was living in a self-contained apartment. I love Dublin as a city, and Ireland as a country – it reminds me very much of my home country, New Zealand. My stay in Dublin was lush and wet – it rained for the two months I worked there, but it was Spring, and the city was happy and glorious in the season. Although locals were commenting how late it was for the bulbs to finally bloom, thanks to the rain that year.
Fortunately, the sun came out on March 17th. In Ireland, the day is an official half-day public holiday. My workplace was shutdown for the morning, so without anything much else to do, and having cabin-fever, I walked into the city centre to explore the day. Of course, the vast majority of shops were shut for the morning. The only stores which had applied to be open were the information centre and one large store – the large Borders Bookshop they had back then (long before all the Borders went under and shut down).
Borders was teeming. Literally thousands of people were squashed into that one open store, or filling the steps and store entrance doors, trying to shove through into it. On St Patrick’s Day, in Dublin, there are a lot of tourists who have travelled there for the day, only to find the place is shut down for the holiday. And it’s not like there’s a beach or anything to go to, nor is the weather conductive to a BBQ or picnic.
After 1pm the city opened up again, but of course most of the workers – including me – had returned to their offices.
That night, the streets were teeming again, naturally. And on my own St Patrick’s Day in Dublin city, I found that I couldn’t actually get in the door of any real Irish pub, so was forced eventually back to my apartment bed.
Revellers returned from their celebrations, via my street, loudly into the night and next morning. Some even hired horse drawn carriages to escort them home at 4am in the morning – I need to mention that the street outside my room was cobbled, the carriages use shire horses, and the harnesses have bells on them – most of which couldn’t be heard that night, over the sounds of the drunken “shhh-shhs”, giggles, screams and then mass attacks of group-led Irish songs. I didn’t begrudge them their celebrations, but it took a whole to catch up on that missing sleep.
The next morning my normal daily commute through a local park found all the beautiful daffodil beds had been stomped on, and some idiot had decorated the park benches with green paint. Morally, the celebrants had chosen to deposit all their beer bottles into the bins, which were also decorated with discarded green wigs and glitter hats.
But, it was less disappointing than my actual touristy visit to the real life blarney stone.