You are NOT IRISH and you will NOT BE WEARING GREEN (reprint from 2009)
My mother is Welsh and emigrated to the U.S. in the early sixties. To her, the Irish were the people who bombed innocent people in London, killed police and endangered a generation of children in Ireland. They were, essentially, terrorists. Lawless killers. Worse than that, they were the Celtic people who got all the good PR in the States.
The Irish have St. Patrick's Day, leprechauns, New York cop accents, Lucky Charms cereal, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. What did the Welsh get? Nothing. We have a super cool flag with a dragon and promote leeks, which are very healthy, but no one really cares. In fact, "welsh" is kind of a depressing word. It means to be dishonourable and renege on a deal. (Welsh on a debt, for instance) I wrote a complaint letter to the Economist once: "Not to compare the plight of the Jews with the plight of the Welsh", I said, "but why are you saying the U.S. is "welshing" on foreign debt when you would never say the U.S. was "jewing down" interest rates on the debt?" It got nowhere. But I know I'm right.
I think the superior Irish PR has to be down to geographic distribution, right? The Welsh came to the U.S. and settled where there were mines, in rural Pennsylania. The Irish settled where there were gay parades, bar fights and police corruption, in Manhattan. O.k., I'm kidding, the Irish brought those things to Manhattan.
So I thought when I moved out of the States in 2001, I would be free of the whitewash job done by the red-headed midget in the green suit. I moved to London and a lot of Londoners have no time for St. Patrick's Day either. . .two sides to every story, you know, including the one between the IRA and the English, and no matter how you slice it a lot of bombs went off during the 70's and 80's in London thanks to the Greens (and a lot of those bombs were funded by passing the hat in bars in Manhattan).
But no such luck. My son's nursery was in Kilburn - they billed it as West Hampstead, but it was about 50 ft from Kilburn High Road, one of the most Irish parts of London. And I'll be goddamned if they didn't spend all of freaking March colouring little leprechauns and four-leaf clovers and rainbows and pots of gold - incredibly annoying. I had to do an intervention and give them Welsh flag dragon colouring sheets for St. David's Day. ( Much cooler than leprechauns) I also tried to do a mini-Eisteddfodd at my son's school - the Welsh singing festival (again, I know no one cares). I tried to scale it down for 3-year-olds. We ended up doing the chicken dance. The kids loved the chicken dance but now all the employees of Teddy's Nursery "West Hampstead" think that the Chicken Dance is Welsh. No - if you take one thing away from this blog, it's that the Welsh lay no claim to the chicken dance.
So back to my Mom. She was pretty incredulous when even in the small town in Western New York where I grew up, we were told by our teachers to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. To her this was obscene. We were absolutely forbidden to wear green ("You are NOT IRISH") and in fact, lately my mother has admitted that she scoured our wardrobes and dressed us in orange, the colour of the Nationalists. I am sure no one in Corning knew the significance of her dressing her children in organge, but I imagine it gave her some grim satisfaction. In fact, bitter, silent denigration of other Celts may be the single most Welsh thing my mother did. Well, that and perpetual Welsh cakes.
I actually am pretty unclear what it means to be Welsh. When I was at Oxford in the 80's, my boyfriend at the time walked past Jesus College (the Welsh college on Turl Street) with me and remarked (before he knew my mother was Welsh) that all Welsh are short, hypochondriacs and liars. I think this was my working framework for quite a while.
So maybe I'm jealous of the Irish with their superior PR. I certainly am jealous of their playwrights. Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson, Frank Guiness, Enda Walsh, Brian Friel. Holy shit, they really do write the best plays. I think it has something to do with them being warlike.
Which is why it is absolutely killing me to watch the American show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This animated tv show chronicles the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Princess Padme, R2D2, Yoda and Obi wan Kenobi during the clone wars. There are a load of new characters too and the accents are hilarious. The blustering stormtroopers lacking self-awareness? Australian accent. The female sith lord? French accent. Of course. And best of all, the pacifist racoon people who colonized a remote planet rather than take sides in the Clone Wars? IRISH! That kills me! To hear these racoon healers spout Buddhist/Swiss peace talk in a thick Irish brogue - I am on the floor. IRISH? Irish people take sides in a pinball game! Someone make George Lucas go see the Leiutenant of Inishmore. Having Irish pacifists is kind of like having Welsh life coaches. OK, I know no one understands that. Which I guess is the point of this blog.