Will The Real St Patrick Please Stand Up!

B’Jesus, b’gorrah, and top o’ the mornin’ to ye.

Yes, horrible isn’t it? It’s also a perfect example of the lazy stereotyping that drinks manufacturers now resort to when marketing ‘St Paddy’s Day’.

As someone who actually has some Irish heritage – my grandad is from Kilkenny (check the surname if you please) you’d think that I’d get all excited about St Patricks’s Day. Especially as Guinness is genuinely my alcoholic beverage of choice. Indeed, only a few years ago I did really look forward to going down to my nearest boozer, indulging in a bit of the old ‘diddly-dum’ music and finding an excuse to down a few more pints of the black stuff.

Admittedly, there’s always been a large contingent of ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ who stand at the bar spouting about ‘The Old Country’ when the nearest they’ve been to Ireland is watching the Irish Derby in the bookies. I’d be lying if I said my claim to being Irish was particularly convincing: I have an Irish grandparent which makes me a ‘quarter Irish’. Embarrassingly, in my youth I would regularly tell my friends this, as if I was somehow special.

“I’m not actually English, you know – I’m a quarter Irish.”

Unsurprisingly, I was a lonely child.

Anyway, the point is, I didn’t mind that. It was to be expected; we don’t need much of an excuse to go and get inebriated. However, with each passing year I’ve seen the hype get more ridiculous as the massive marketing machine of the drinks companies has gone in to overdrive. Which leads to my experience on this year’s ‘festivities’.

There is an Irish bar that myself and my colleague try and get to at least one lunchtime of a week (preferably Friday – makes us feel like we deserve it). We both love Guinness and this bar does the best pint for miles. We thought we’d pop down there at lunchtime on Tuesday to sample the ‘real Irish’ atmosphere – ‘It’s Your Paddy’s Day’ as one of the many banners hanging around the place pronounced.

Imagine our horror, as I try to describe the scene that we found on our arrival.

First of all, the place was heaving. That I can handle -the place needs all the custom it can get. I just took issue with the kind of people that were in there. These folks made the afore mentioned ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ look like the real thing. Grown adults dressed in complete Leprachaun costumes, complete with stick-on white sideburns. And that was just the women.

Then came the adhoc souvenir store that had been set-up next to the bar, selling the obligatory green hats, ‘I Do It For The Craic’ T-shirts and even plastic 4 leaf clover key rings. And there was a queue of people waiting to buy all that shite. People, I hasten to add, I have never seen in that pub before. They just saw the big green ‘St Paddy’ Bandwagon rolling in to town and thought ‘ooh that looks fun’. Fun? Since when did a big knees up down the pub become Theme Night In The Asylum?

Then, just to finish things off nicely, there was a selection of ‘Oirish’ music being played by a DJ that was actually pretending to mix the tracks. At one point he faded the next record up to early and it sounded like an Accordionist was falling down some stairs. Then came the penny whistle solo. A sound I love to hear live when I’m standing in a pub in Ireland, maybe with a nice acoustic guitar and a violin. What I’m not so keen on is when it’s played through a sound system that has all the sonic charm of a rusty gate. The treble was so offensive that at one point one of my ear drums actually left my body and went round the corner for a Starbucks.

Wincing, I took another look around the room to see dozens of be-hatted freaks pretending to enjoy their pints of Guinness, despite the fact it’s the first time they’ve ever tasted it, and saying things like:

“Mmmm, it’s really creamy isn’t it? I love a bit of stout, me”

Ok, ok, I know I’ve probably over-laboured the point here a bit and it may surprise you to find out that I definitely don’t want to get rid of St Patricks Day. Pubs are struggling, with as many as 6 closing every day, so promotions that can bring in this amount of business are a necessity. You would probably also say ‘well why don’t you just not go out on St paddy’s you miserable sod?’ And you’d be dead right.

Which is why my final suggestion is this: How about we have our own Real St Patrick’s Day to be held annually on March 18th? The pubs would be nice and quiet – at least all the ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ would be too hung over from the previous day’s exertions to bother us. We could get a nice acoustic combo in to supply the entertainment. All Leprechaun outfits and cheap souvenirs would be banned and there would be a test question on the door: What was it that Patrick actually did to become a saint? And the answer ‘something to do with snakes?’ would not suffice.

So put the date in your diary and I’ll see you all next year. 2010 really will be ‘Our St.Patrick’s Day’. The real one.

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