It’s #ThrowbackThursday and today I’m reflecting on St Patrick’s Day, nearly two weeks ago. It started unpromisingly but turned out to be our best night out in ages.
It was a Friday and after a 13-hour stint with my two little boys I would have sooner had my legs waxed than stand squashed in a loud pub. When we got there – ‘there’ being the sawdust-floored pub my husband had heard was authentically Irish – the diddly diddly music wasn’t live, a battered looking barman overcharged us for our drinks and a fight broke out. Great start, right?! I thought to myself, ‘No surprise I haven’t been here before in 27 years of living in this town’.
But then we got chatting with the barman (owner) – a Limerickian Phil Mitchell lookalike who reminisced with my husband about the west of Ireland and gave us some hideous Guinness hats. We stayed for another, and another, and even some shots. Gradually, this scruffy – but, yes, authentic – corner of Ireland in Brighton showed us a darned good evening.
Unlike millions of people all over the world I’m a bit wary of celebrating St Patrick’s Day, of undermining the weight of history between my husband’s country and my own. But on this occasion my husband had turned down another invitation to celebrate his national day with me. And I’m so glad he did! In a town not really known for its Irish connections (despite Charles Stewart Parnell living here briefly, and dying here), that pub on that evening was a microcosm of Irish experiences.
Our kids will soon have dual nationality and it’s important to us that they have a strong sense of their heritage and strong relationships with family across the Irish sea. At the moment they’re small so this mostly involves chaotic Skype calls, indoctrination to support ‘the boys in green’ in the rugby and singing along to my husband’s poor rendition of Take me home, country roads. As they get older I see them avidly following their oldest cousin’s appearances for Galway, summers spent on the beaches of Sligo and Clare, and (of course) plenty of St Patrick’s Day celebrations of their own.
God knows, with the beginning of the Brexit process it’s more important than ever that the next generation can learn from our mistakes, look beyond borders and focus instead on peace, on progress and on the powerful effect of raising a pint and a smile with friends old and new. Slàinte!