This St Patrick’s Day, I’ll be doing… nothing special. Of course, I could choose to visit any number of green-balloon festooned pubs here in London to raise a glass to the aul’ sod with some fellow emigrants, but then we’d all have to get back to work sharpish. There’s no bank holiday here of course. No 3-day festival of rugby, shamrocks, booze and Great Nights Out.
I’ve lived in London for 16 years now. Almost half my life, and all of my adult life. It’s home now. And for most of the year, I really, really love living in one of the world’s great cities. I love the fact that it’s a mecca for people from all over the world, the energy of the place, the sense that no matter where you’re from, you’re a Londoner now.
But as soon as March 17 comes into view, I inevitably get crushed by the kind of sweeping, mahoosive homesickness that you normally only get on the first night of Irish College. It’s enough to send me hightailing to the nearest Irish shop for a fix of Taytos, red lemonade and batch bread.
It’s not just the famed ‘craic’ of Paddy’s Day, the huge amount of fun that everyone at home is bound to be having or even the lovely bank holiday just as spring arrives. Not even the novelty green milkshakes, Irish dancers in the parade, the sprig of shamrock in your lapel.
It’s also the idea of celebrating our national identity, in a way that’s total alien to your average English person. St George’s Day is nowhere near as big a deal over here, and exists in a strange limbo where only extreme right-wing loons celebrate their English identity by getting mean-eyed drunk and belting out a song with the unlikely title of ‘Jerusalem.’
So spare a thought for all the exiles out there as you put on your deely-boppers today, belt out’ A-T-A Security’ at the parade and down several choice pints. I’ll be sulking into my imported Kimberlys and comforting myself with the thought that those Macnas heads always freaked the living daylights out of me.
By Jenny Coyle