Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

It’s Only Monday

monday

Good morning and welcome to the new week!

Lots of people hate Mondays, including Garfield, the Bangles and the Boomtown Rats.  I personally quite like them, for the same reason that I love early mornings: the potential.  The beginning of something is always full of possibilities to explore and opportunities not yet taken.  Inevitably, Mondays (and early mornings) are also riddled with moments of clumsiness, missed trains and coffee spillages, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the good stuff yet to come that’s worth thinking about.  Who knows what this week might hold?

This time of year is a bit of an odd one, because British people’s moods are almost solely dictated by the weather: some people are a bit blue because it’s so chilly and there’s a lot of damage to be fixed after the floods, whereas others are tilting their faces towards the lukewarm sunshine and thinking dreamily of summer.  It is technically British Summer Time now…but we have to show some self-control.  Put down the deck chairs; we’ve got a few months and several degrees to go.

Apparently, people have always tended to be feeling a bit extreme around this date.  Whether these were all on Mondays or just end-of-March madness we’ll never know, but let’s look at some examples:

1603: After about a year of watching her closest mates drop dead one by one, Queen Elizabeth I succumbs to peer pressure and follows suit.  After forty-four and a half years on the throne she must be knackered, poor thing.

1832: Mormon Joseph Smith is beaten, tarred and feathered in Ohio.  I know I should be appalled by that, but actually it just made me giggle.  It’s the idea of a religious fanatic running around covered in feathers; how on earth could anyone take that zealous lunatic seriously after that?

1837: Canada gives black people the right to vote.  This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the fact that America took another thirty-three years and a civil war to come to the same decision.  Good for you, Canada.

1882: German scientist Robert Koch announces the discovery of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  The disease has been considered hereditary until this point, but Koch’s work discovers the truth (and wins him a Nobel prize in 1905, and undoubtedly saves a heck of a lot of lives).

1906: A census of the British Empire reveals that Britain rules a fifth of the world.  Slightly awkward to look back at now, but is beautifully summarised by this Eddie Izzard clip.

1972: Northern Ireland’s Parliament is suspended after the prime minister resigns.  Britain’s direct rule over Northern Ireland is introduced.  This is just getting embarrassing.

1973: This one isn’t an example of March madness by any means, but on this day The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons is born.  He is looking very well for someone who hit the big four-one today, I must say.

I hope you enjoyed your miniature history lesson.  May your Monday turn out to contain all sorts of amazing things, such as the legendary all-chocolate Kit Kat.

St. Patrick’s Day Perspectives

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Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I was born and raised in Watford (which has its own special set of ramifications that we can come back to another time), but I also have a lot of Irish heritage.  I didn’t get some of the Irish genes that I would have liked -the gorgeous red hair and pale skin went to my little sister in this generation – but a lot of aspects of my personality are more Irish than Watfordian, such as my deep-rooted conviction that feeding people will solve everything.

I also have several Irish friends, and it is their perspective of this saint’s day that I would like to tell you about this morning.  These friends have been brought up in Northern Ireland (or “Norn Iron”, if you like), but moved over to England for university.  One of them stayed over here for a while and has only recently moved back to Belfast for a fantastic job, and another has just moved to Italy for a few months.  They are passionate, talented and interesting people who are definitely going places, but who are also (quite rightly) proud of where they’ve come from.

Interestingly, the general consensus of their favourite St. Patrick’s Days has been their first one away from Ireland.  I reckon the main reason for this is probably that they were at university with a whole new group of friends, and there is a novelty about today that we English like to maximise.  (For instance, walk into any Asda in the country and look at the St. Patrick’s Day costumes they’ve got in store.  Hey wow, as my friend Carly would say.)  One of my friends said that she was overwhelmed by how many people turned up to her first Paddy’s Day party in England: “They also didn’t just turn up, everyone dressed up – the face paint was everywhere!  It was brilliant craic!”  I was at that party and it’s true, the face paint really took over the evening, and we had a great time.

Another friend of mine decided to use what he describes as the “It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish, so bend to my will” card by persuading the staff at one of our uni bars to change the television channel: “I got…them to put the schools’ rugby final (a Northern Irish tradition, it’s quite a big deal) on the big screens. I then got my first few drinks in of the day while I watched my old school get thoroughly trounced. I washed down the disappointment and disgust with a few more beers. Then travelled to the late Rutherford bar [another drinking hole on campus] for a brunch of “traditional Irish stew”.  (It was nothing of the sort. I mean, it was quite nice but nothing like mammy used to make…)”

When I asked my friends about the differences between celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over here and in Ireland, I got a very interesting set of responses: the biggest differences actually seem to be between Northern Ireland and the Republic, because of the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland: “It isn’t an official bank holiday here like it is down South.  Nevertheless, quite a few schools and businesses take the day off work.”  I was also told that “in Ireland pretty much everything shuts down; transport, banks, schools etc. (Not the pubs. Obviously.) …I hear the Belfast and Dublin parties are pretty great (albeit the ones in Belfast can get a little hairy – St. Patrick’s Day is most definitely a Catholic holiday”.  In terms of how the English celebrate this day, one of my friends made a very canny observation: “I think for England it’s a great day to drink like the Irish and get the craic going, leaving that old stiff upper lip behind for a day!”  And who can argue with that?

Similarly, I got a very good explanation for why this day seems to be more popular than other UK patron saints’ days: “St Patrick’s Day is a whole lot of fun. Everyone around the world is familiar with the stereotype of what it is to be Irish (I’ve not been to a country yet where someone hasn’t piped up with the old “oh, you’re Irish, do you want a Guinness/potato/leprechaun?”) and more importantly, people like what that stereotype entails: being jolly, cracking jokes and getting drunk with your friends.” 

I completely agree with my friends that today’s socially acceptable jollity is something that we English find appealing because it’s the perfect meeting point between our binge-drinking culture and our traditional self-control, and who can resist shunning their own stereotype for the day in order to adopt someone else’s (which is also a lot more fun)?

So today is a good time for celebration and fun, but what would my Irish friends like to change about this holiday?  One of my friends has an excellent and touching St. Patrick’s Day wish: “I wish that all Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities throughout Northern Ireland who don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day due to it being associated with the Republic of Ireland and the Nationalist communities would come out and celebrate.  It is a day that can unite us, whether you are Irish, Northern Irish, Catholic, Protestant or from a minority.”

Another friend of mine who has a slightly different set of priorities has made this impassioned plea: “If I could change one thing about the day it’d probably be this: hot girls with atrociously fake Irish accents get more free pints than genuine Irish guys desperate for another pint. There is something very wrong about this and I think someone really ought to do something.”

Have a brilliant St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and remember to drink your novelty green beer responsibly.