Little Ireland, 15,000 miles away
Auckland, New Zealand
18th September, 2004
They had me. No chance of escape. They were waiting at the airport, seized my bags and bundled me wholesale into the back of
a car. no chance to cry out. No chance to run, shouting for help down the new Zealand highway.
Already the words began.
"Well, shall we go for a pint, so?"
"Hey, we've booked ya into an fil-m on Wednesday! On for it? It'll be gas!"
I bowed my head. You can't run, not from the Murphia. It didn't matter that we were 15,000 miles from Cait ní Dhuibhir,
I was back in the hands of the Irish, and they weren't letting go.
What's in You
Teresa and her boyfriend sat in the front of the car, giving me news about other friends around the world. All were
Irish. I knew them, or, if I didn't know them, I knew their sister, or their cousin, or the name of their dog.
Teresa had come to Auckland two years ago. She had one ambition. To start a new life. To fit into New Zealand society. To discover
new friends new pursuits. To not go near any bloody Irish bars or Irish people.
"And now here I am - surrounded by the bastards!"
We shouldn't be suprised. Who else could put up with us but other Irish?
What is Ireland but a geographical leper colony?
At the tail end of Europe, all the biological flotsam of
the human race must have floated in over the millenia. The Irish have the highest concentration of type O blood.
We are the best digesters of raw milk. We are the fastest natural walkers on the planet. When you see a crazed blood donor racing
after a cow with a determined grin and a milk pail, you'll know it's just another Mick.
We wandered into a low bar. Everyone else was a Maori. All Maori look as if they are about to throw their arms around
you with love, or else beat you to death with a broken oar. Teresa looked smug as she told me not to worry. She knew worst came
to worst, I was the one getting the oar, while she had the love. I tried my best to relax. I measured the distance to the door, and then the length
of Teresa's legs. She was probably a slow runner. Good news. I stopped worrying.
"Watch this". She ordered our pints in her piping Galway voice. Suddenly, the whole bar relaxed. We weren't white people after all.
We were Irish. We lived on an obscure island, hated the British, and played gutsy rugby, just like them.
The badge of the fellow oppressed would saw us through, once again.
Flanny MacSpuds Rare Old Crack Bar and Steakhouse
Then we went to an Irish pub.
Irish pubs. Bars with stupid names like Wobbler McGee's or the Whacky O'Japshole. Bars with wood panels from a kit,
cheap lithographs of grey streets and dead men, and paint-by-number
mis-quotes of Gaelic proverbs that meant something living once and are now mere decor.
Bars owned by greasy dealers, staffed with resentful blow-ins, full of students and wannabes and drunks who think loud is fun.
Or worst of all, full of Irish people. We hate the mingey dumps. We do. And yet...
And yet you can't avoid it. Anywhere you go in the world, any major city, there they are. The lads.
A ready made community of friends where you can fit right in, straight away. Where you understand what's going on.
Where you can talk about the old stuff. Familiar street corners and ads on TV.
It's the advantage. It's the straitjacket, all in one. We irish know each other - or at least we know about each other.
We know each others familes towns schools. We've had the same education, been to the same colleges. We've watched the
same TV. We've been to the same pubs. We know the same stories. We all think Dublin is gotten too big for its boots and Ireland
is over-rated anyway. And...
And we can't help but like each other. Or sort of rub along anyway. When we're not crying into our beer with nostalgia
for all that we ran from.
Isn't it great to be Irish?
Everyone else in the world thinks we're wonderful... why? Who knows! I think the Irish are race of shite.
Two faced scheming deceitful scoundrels full of hidden complexes and unhappy childhoods, riddled with nostalgia for a fake past
and a toxic present, who concern themselves solely with morbid self examination, depression and foolish conceits
about their importance in the world. And yet we're great, despite all that.
So many people, despite everything, want to be us. Lonely second generation dentists from Manchester,
starry eyed students from Hanover, American presidents, entire populations in Australia.
But it's no good. To be Irish, you have to be really Irish though. All the misery, jokes and excess.
Second generation never cuts it. You've got to know the important stuff -
not the famine, or history, or the songs of the dubliners, or anything we were bored of by the time we were fifteen - but the
real stuff, such as, why did he have forty coats? what happened to bosco?
why does noone like limerick and why Dublin don't deserve to win the All Ireland, ever?
No amount of ballad singing can ever make you say, "Fuck off" with just the right intonation.
And Then Again
Teresa leant over to me and mumured, "I've taken up mountain biking!" It was her rebirth away from home.
"Isn't that amazing!"
Funny little people all the same.