Hey Reader! It's St. Paddy's Day on Monday and I SO nearly forgot! Which would be a crying shame, because every year on St. Patrick's Day I phone my gran and we natter about awesome Irish stuff. This year (since I discovered that my local Asda has an Irish section) I will be rediscovering my love for Kimberly biscuits, cheese and onion Taytos (to me, the other flavours just don't exist) and red lemonade. And going to a pub quiz. I will probably drink quite a bit too (but not Guinness or Irish Whiskey, because despite being from the land of the black stuff, I am not a fan). You know what Reader? I blooming LOVE being half Irish. I would even go so far as to say that I feel more Irish than English, despite living in London. And here's why....
10 REASONS WHY BEING IRISH IS GRAND, SO.
(if you don't get this title, you need to spend more time with Irish folk)
1. Having an affinity with potatoes
Atkins? Get out this instant. Being Irish means an innate understanding that potatoes are the source of great joy, and to not have them with a meal is a disgrace. We have potato bread, potato cake (which is like a flat, heavy scone-amazing hot with lots of Kerry Gold butter) and a lot of the old pubs in Eire serve bowls of skin on boiled spuds with a knife and a pat of butter and some salt. Because what else do you need in life? There's a running joke in my group of friends that I'm going to have 10 kids and name them all after various ways of cooking potato. We've even come up with personalities for all of them (Dauphinoise is a bit of a snob and Mashed is really mellow. Roast likes cuddles and Chipped is hyper but really handsome). We know what it means to lose something you love (the potato famine is in my blood) so we embrace our love of the carby veg and never take it for granted.
2. When you go back to Ireland as a 2nd or 3rd generationer, it's a bit like being famous
You'll go into a shop you haven't been in since you were 6 and the shop keeper will go 'Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is that Mary's girl?' (Mary is my grandmother, not my mother, but it doesn't matter how far away the connection is, you will always be 'Mary's girl'. Hell, my kids will be 'Mary's little ones!'). Then other people in the shop will come over and look at you. They'll start talking to the older person you're with about you as if you're not there 'Isn't she beautiful? She'll be having the boys all a flutter! I heard she was on the television? Mary must be so proud. Is she still living at home?' By the time you leave you'll feel like you've just been surrounded by fans speculating on your life and wanting to know all about you (the negative side of this is that they often know things about you that you barely knew yourself. Again, much like fans.) People will start dropping by the house because they heard you were 'over' as the phone chain begins, and you'll meet people who have literally never met you, but know every detail of your life. Sometimes this will also happen in London. There's always the moment when you say your grandparents/parents are from a tiny town that no one has ever heard of and the person you're talking to will say 'Oh! The O'Donnell's? From TinyGreenVillagey? How are they?' I remember being about 15 and discovering that my grandparents knew my scary Irish geography teacher from their weekly dance. Crazy stuff. You will learn that The Irish Centre in Tottenham is where all Irish People of a certain age have been at one stage or another (and you probably spent a lot of your youth drinking red lemonade in the bar there, or going to engagement parties in the big hall).
3. The Weddings
There will be some crazy ass dancing. There will be some INTENSE drinking. There will be a fight or two. There will be a number of people wandering around at 8am holding a half empty pint and wondering what happened to their shoes. There won't be a buffet (who are you bloody kidding?) there will be a sit down meal with proper food to line your stomach. The wedding service (if you are Catholic) will take so long that most people will have napped during it, or used the time to write the card and wrap the present. Not only is there a bouquet toss (in which your older relations get VICIOUS), but the groom will toss the bride's garter and whichever man catches it will have to remove it from the thigh of the woman who caught the flowers. With his teeth. (Warning: Don't try and catch the flowers, the man will inevitably be your slightly weird cousin with the scary smile). The older generation will try and match you up with someone, but you'll be too busy dancing to 'Shoe The Donkey' (my favourite song in the dance halls when I was a kid) with your distant cousins.
Oh, you think Primark is good? Primark is Penneys. Penneys came first. When you go over, you bring an empty fucking suitcase, because Penneys is cheaper, better, and has more variety. I'm actually kind of pissed off Primark came to the UK because before that I'd vanish off to Ireland and come back with a new wardrobe that no one in England had, that I'd only spent half of my allowance on. Now more people have the stuff, but screw it, Penneys is still better. You go in and do a dance, because there are so many options and the Tralee one is really big and full of bargains. And because Irish people have had it forever, they are inevitably empty.
5. Puck Fair
How do I explain Puck Fair? Erm...Ok. So it's essentially a really big celebration in Kerry, where they choose the best goat and put it on a big tower/stand thing in Killorglin town centre. He is named 'King Puck' and is treated like a total don and fed really nice food and stuff to make up for being on a big stand (he is a mountain goat, so he's generally alright with heights). Pubs are open till 3am and there are way more lock ins than usual, the local gypsies have loads of stands selling beautiful home made things that break your heart when they fall apart five minutes after you buy them and there's a fun fair. Essentially the town is drunk for about a week. The reason for all this is that many years ago, a goat saved the town from Oliver Cromwell and his army. Although the story changes depending on who you ask-I remember one old chap telling me that the goat was wearing a crown and was actually a fairy king who had disguised himself, another person told me the goat was what the town ate after they survived Cromwell. At the end of the day, it's an excuse for a big party. And being Irish means you love a big ass party.
6. Pub Culture
If you're not Irish, then you probably won't understand why Irish Pubs are such a big deal world wide. In Ireland (and in England, where so many of the Irish have settled), Irish pubs are not just a place for having a natter and a pint, or watching the football in. EVERYTHING happens there. When my nan was younger, no one owned a phone, so if she was trying to reach my Granddad, she'd find a payphone and call the local pub. If he wasn't there, then there would be someone there who knew where he was. Locals would leave messages there, because everyone was bound to drop in at some stage. When I was little, my Granddad would take me to pubs while my nan had her hair done and because I was quite cute and freckly, the old men would sing a Gaelic song and get me to pretend to Irish dance on the bar like a cockney Shirley Temple in exchange for some chocolate (I still get recognised in some Tottenham and Kerry pubs...). During the war, the pubs had a roaring black market trade, in Killarney (the closest town to where my family is based in Kerry) you can still get advice on where to get the cheapest bacon or the best locally brewed (ever so slightly Illegal) Poitín. Pubs are where all the gossip is, where you see people you haven't seen for 20 years, where you can get the best Irish breakfast and if you get talking to the right people, you can hear all the local lore. Plus, you never know who you'll run into. One of the pubs that I spent most of my childhood in with my Granddad in Killarney is owned by Michael Fassbender's dad. My great uncle has had some wild nights with the man himself apparently!
7. The Rose of Tralee
When I was little and visited my Irish rellies, you could place money on the fact that at least once, entering me into 'The Rose of Tralee' would come into conversation. As I got older, it moved from being a joke, to a threat. 'Ye're old enough now Aislinn, next time you're home, ye'll be going up for the Rose!' So, essentially, The Rose is a yearly beauty pageant in Tralee that anyone with Irish heritage can enter. It's only aired in Ireland and America (I think) but it's a HUGE deal over there. We try to go over when it's on so we can curl up on the sofa and take the mick out of it (some of the 'talents' are less than skilled...). For a month, every car in Ireland is covered in bumper stickers saying 'We <3 the London Rose!' or 'Texas Rose 2014!' and the area is flooded with US tourists and Pageant fans. I think my Grandmother would explode with pride if me or my little cousins got on the tour. The problem is, we're all a bit too sarcastic and would take the piss far too much! My parents and I always joke that my talent would be a cookery lesson on various forms of potato based dishes (in fact, the last time we were all over for The Rose, me and my dad began a game called 'Potato Fairy' where you hide potatoes in the other person's belongings. I only found the last one in my shoe a year after we'd started the game, by which point it had begun to grow other, baby spuds).
8. People who aren't Irish think we're romantic and magical
I have red hair (admittedly, it's dyed) and freckles. Recently, I was chatting to one of my guy friends and he told me that I'm the sort of girl that boys develop strange infatuations for because 'You look a bit like some kind of elfin princess from an Irish story' but that they get scared to ask me out because 'You're sort of too pure and glowy and magic'. Which has to be the STRANGEST compliment I've ever received. a) Because I am not elfin, I am actually quite tall and stompy and clumsy b) I am not princess like, and anyone who has ever been round me when I'm either drunk, eating or hyperactive can attest to that and c) TOO pure, glowy and magical? Are they afraid that I'm secretly a fairy who might cast a spell on them and not release them from my fairy lair for 40 years? OBVIOUSLY I only do that if I really like someone. Duh. But seriously, people are very attracted to the Celtic thing. An American director I worked with last year asked me if I was Irish, and when I said yes, just looked me up and down and said 'That's hot'. I mean...what? If you've grown up in Ireland you don't really see it, because we know the truth-that most Irish people are like people anywhere else and use knickers to tie up their hair when their last hairband breaks and have days where they go to the supermarket in PJs and eat crisps in front of the telly. But it works with men too. Dylan Moran for example. Hopelessly sexy, despite acting like a right alcoholic weirdo. I blame the accent. Everyone hears his voice and goes 'oh he's a right Irish cheeky devil!' (I very rarely get this. Domnhall Gleeson is one of the few men that I get Irish goggles over-but then he is completely adorable, so I think that's fair)
(Look at him. BLOODY BEAUTIFUL. I would do TERRIBLE THINGS to that man.)
9. We can use it as an excuse for almost anything
Why are you eating that entire server of mashed potatoes? Because I'm Irish! Why are you drinking that entire pitcher of green cocktail? Because I'm Irish! How comes you get the last green dress in our size? Because I'm Irish! Why do you think you can pull off red hair? Because I'm Irish! Why are you so devilishly adorable? Because I'm IRISH.
BOOM. Now pass the 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' tee-shirt
10. Our history is like something out of Game of Thrones
There's a mountain range behind my house which is where a Giant lay down to have a nap and turned to stone. We had a crap ton of kings and queens, and most of their stories have the words 'and then they met a faery' in there somewhere (in fact, my name: Aislinn, comes from an ancient queen's name meaning a dream or vision). There are leprechauns, there are Banshees, there are motherfudging Silkies. We take our myths and legends pretty damn seriously. I know more about the stories and fairy tales of Ireland than I do about the real history-and I think that's how the Irish older generation like to keep it. When I was growing up, was I told about the English invasion? NO! I was told about the man on Ross Bay who fell in love with the Silkie and hid her seal skin so she had to stay on land and bear children with him, and about how when she found her skin and escaped, all their children followed her and drowned.
Frankly, being Irish ROCKS.
Have a marvelous St. Patrick day Reader!