3/18/2007

Reflections on St Paddy's Day

A belated Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig to all Balrog's readers. I had planned on blogging yesterday morning however other things stopped that.

This was my very first St Patrick's Day away from home, Ireland that is not South Armagh, and I have to say it was perhaps the best.



St Patrick's Day has always been a weird day, with my memories made up of very different days.

When I was younger it was a day when all the Scouts met at the local community centre and made the small march to the Chapel in full uniform. The St Patrick's Day mass was a special day of the year for the Scouts when we took full part in the mass.

That was an end to my "religious" dealings in relation to St Patrick's Day.

When I hit 14 I had my first taste of the green shamrock, very enjoyable day from what I can remember. Pernod and White lemonade, disgusting looking back now.

Then my first real drinking session on St Patrick's Day came when I went to QUB. Jesus Christ, a siege and a half. Doors open from 8 am, chairs and sofas on the road and Republican songs blasting over the airwaves.

A serious amount of drink was had by all!

Now I presumed that this day would be very different, after all I am in London. I had no idea just how wrong I was.

I ended up going out with a few girls from Fermanagh/Donegal and we headed to a pub in North London. Now I have been in this pub quite a lot, it's an Irish bar but a lot of English would drink in it as well.

So I met up with the girls at one o'clock and decided to go and get something to eat first. The girls then informed me that there was no point as free "Irish food" was been served in the pub all day.

Cabbage and bacon and Irish stew.

So we went to the pub and watched the Rugby match and the Cross match, I swear I am near cross eyed today after trying to watch both matches at the same time.

So as the pub began to fill up by 2 pm the band arrived. I asked the girls if this band was any good. They told me I should enjoy it as they played "Rebel" music. Now before I go on both the girls are Protestant and from a Unionist background albeit with a strong sense of Irish identity.

So when the girls told me they played Rebel music I took it with a pinch of salt, how wrong was I?

I was expecting "hay diddle diddle" music but what I got was hardcore Republican ballads. The ballad of Billy Reid, Provo's Lullaby, Go on home British soldiers (quite ironic!) and the Two Brendan's (my personal favourite).

I was fucking stunned!!

I would never had expected to hear such tunes in London, least of all in a pub that had a brave few English people in it.

What did worry me was how the girls would feel about the music, I was enjoying it but I didn't want them to feel uncomfortable. I looked around to ask the girls if they wanted to leave and one of the fuckers was shouting out the lines of "go on home British soldiers" with an English bloke.

It felt like the twilight zone!

So after many, many, many more pints the night came to on end and I was left to ponder on the day that was.

St Patrick's day is probably more important to Irish people outside of Ireland than it is to those back home. It is a day when you can feel at home, if only for a couple of hours.

The parade today in London was excellent and Ken put on a great show with Pat Doherty and Dodie McGuinness of Sinn Féin leading the parade along with him.

It's ironic that London can be more sensible with regards to St Patrick's Day than Belfast.

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