The Americans recognise 3 countries in
Europe without too much difficulty: , Italy and Ireland . They will usually tell you they are one of them or all 3. If they have actually been to Scotland they will tell you their family tartan. (Yeah, how much did they charge you for that little nugget! Don’t tell me – you are descended from Highlander and you are from the Clan Macleod!) Dig a bit deeper with a question like ‘Where in Scotland are your family from?’ and they are clueless. You know – Scotland ! They are from the main bit called Scotland ! I was on a train to Scotland Inverness once and some Americans were admiring a ‘Cute little man chopping wood in the glen’. They are so romantic. What I saw was a knackered old bloke having to chop wood in the middle of nowhere.
The other day I was told by one of the American neighbours that she was Irish. (I think she means ‘of Irish descent’ because she isn’t Irish). One of her distant relatives had the surname of
. From this it had been deduced that they were O’Brians but had dropped the O – Was this because other Americans thought they were answering in a perpetual state of shock ‘OH!’ or, according to her they wanted to drop the stigma of being Irish? I like my idea because no American would deny being Irish. Everyone here wants to originate from somewhere in Bryan Europe (as long as it is , Scotland or Ireland ). Today, in honour of St Patrick, they will claim some sort of distant link to be Irish like ‘I drank Guinness once’. If they can say ‘I drank Guinness once in an Irish bar with an Irish person’ they will become instantly more popular for a short while. Italy
they dye the fountains and water green today for St Patrick’s Day. When we visited Savannah, Georgia they told us on the happy trolley tour bus that 18% of the population of Savannah is Irish. Now I assume this is Irish with Irish passports otherwise everyone would proclaim to have a bit of Irish in them! This reminds me of the fabulous Phil Lynott live – ‘has anyone got any Irish in them? Would any of the girls like a bit more Irish in them?’ When asked once what it felt like to be black and Irish, he replied ‘Like a pint of Guinness!’ What he might have more honestly said was ‘I’m not Irish, I am of Irish descent. I was born in Savannah West Bromwich!’ Enough reason to want to latch on to Irish heritage.
I was asked yesterday what I would be cooking to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Cooking? A special Celebratory St Patrick’s meal – like all the other wives of Wisteria Lane who have no Irish connections. One woman was making a ‘traditional Irish salad’. I really must ask my Irish friends to guess what was in it – I don’t think they will! I could have lied. I could have said ‘I’m making cabbage’ but I didn’t. My response produced that look I disdain I often get here – I said ‘Nothing! I am not Irish’. I am more Irish than those concocting their special Irish meals for tonight. My Nan’s parents were. Surname O’Neill. (Like the surf stuff- cool – I might change my name!) Or maybe my
Nan was surprised by the question when asked of her surname and she said ‘Oh! Neill!’ I consider myself very much British with grandparents with names like O’Neill and Evans. I suppose I could take on the American tendency to look at ancestry and seek a Nordic name ending in sen/ - søn (= son) or -datter / -dotter (= daughter) so that I can claim my true Viking heritage- arriving on a boat with horns! Why don’t we Brits do that? Oh yes! Because we would have to go back too far to before anyone could read or write. At least in America you haven’t got that much history to plough through (unless native Amrerican Indian) before you find out you arrived on a boat.
My kiddies’ clothes were laid out for school this morning. They ususally protest. I miss school uniform. It made life much easier and cheaper. Today they absolutely refused to put on what I had got out… Because it wasn’t green! My son was convinced he would be pinched at school if he didn’t wear green. At Christmas they were not allowed to say ‘Happy Christmas’ and had to say ‘Happy Holidays’ so it wouldn’t offend. Today they have to wear green to celebrate a very Christian celebration. I had selected Blue for my son – ironically it is the original colour associated with St Patrick! My Daughter’s homework this week was to make a lepechaun trap. This was set by the teacher who told her catagorically that fairies did not exist. (being subversive I told her to ask her teacher if angels exist! My daughter is a sweetheart and wouldn’t be so rude)
As for St Patrick himself? Formally known as Maewyn Succat. He wasn’t Irish but was kidnapped from Roman Britain by Irish raiders. He escaped but must have loved Ireland so much he went back.
For fear of a Leprechaun taking offence I am not criticising anything Irish, far from it. I get why people want to be Irish. I just don’t get the American take on things. There is a huge Irish population in America – and some amazing city parades where the Irish populations are concentrated and the Irish celebrate like only they know how. That happens in cities all over the world but in America big business, as usual has highjacked something and turned it into a charade. As soon as Valentines Day was over the party/card sections in shops were filled with all things green. For most part, what St Patrick’s day is over here is a commercial success. For a real Irish shin-dig you need a vital ingredient that seems to be lacking in many celebrations here. You need some REAL Irish people! Then you have something worth joining in and celebrating!
Enjoy the song!