I read this post by Gary the other day and it got me pondering. I’m fairly certain that most of the pubs in Leicester aren’t so much celebrating St Patrick’s Day as exploiting a commercial opportunity – though in fairness there are a couple of pubs I know in the city that are ‘Irish’ insofar as management and clientelle are concerned. Anyway – St.P’s day. We get to see all those pictures from the USA (nicely mentioned in Gary’s post) and we get to see and hear a lot of people on the wrong side of several pints of the black stuff. Nothing wrong with this at all. It seems to me that for the actual Irish people involved it becomes a celebration of who they are, where they are from, of all things good about their history, of being Irish. Nothing wrong here either – this isn’t a criticism, just a hopefully correct observation. That’s all really good – and the reason I pondered for two days before posting – because I nearly wrote this in response and thought I ought to think first (sometimes I do think first..) – was to try and think of any situation or event or happening or anything that would make me feel like celebrating me being English / British. I cannot think of anything. At all.
St George’s Day is …. when? April 23 according to wikipedia but I’d not have known. It’s not celebrated in a way I can recall – and even if it were I have not the slightest doubt that someone would deem it grossly offensive to everyone not English and would sue under the Human Rights Act because their sensibilities had been deeply and irreversibly damaged but several thousand pounds would ease the pain so hand it over because I’ve got all you natives over a barrel (oops… getting into another topic there!). But even if it does get celebrated – and I’m confident the breweries and card-making companies are working on it – it still wouldn’t make me feel ‘English’. Maybe it’s because I’m still here? Maybe if I lived in the Rockie Mountains I’d feel more English as I woke on April 23 and brewed myself a nice cup of Earl Grey. Maybe I don’t know what I’ve got – or who I am – until it’s taken away? Maybe the celebrations in the US are so over the bloody top not because they are celebrating but because they are wanting to attach themselves to something so they party harder to try and make it more real? Not having been to Ireland I don’t know how it’s celebrated there – at a guess, more restrained than over the Atlantic.
Maybe it’s because of my attitude and experience so far, but I can’t imagine a situation where I would be either proud to say I’m English or I would celebrate that fact. Is that wrong? Or it is just not right? I would certainly fail Norman Tebbit’s Cricket test partly because the game bores me but mainly because I wouldn’t care who won. I don’t care about such national events and if anything I would want to see a good game, a close game, a game where the best really did win and not just because they were a certain nationality. Wars are meant to ‘bring the nation together’ – Thatcher wanted a war and made one happen to bolster her own political ends and it worked for her. His Tonyness tried the same thing and now wants us all to praise his school agenda and neatly forget the complete mess he has helped create in Iraq. He wanted ‘people’ to be proud to be ‘British’ or ‘English’ because we helped sort Iraq out. No, got that wrong. Very wrong. There is nothing a politician can do to make me feel that way – but they’ll keep trying. They’ll keep trying to attach our hopes to their aspirations.
For some Irish people on the 17th it’ll be just another day. For others an excuse to get pissed, others still just a tradition. But for the last group it really will be a day of pride, of a deep satisfaction of being Irish and the deep roots behind that. That’s a feeling, a something I cannot get close to for myself and I can’t decide what that means.