Saint Patrick’s Day

I don’t have any young Irish friends, just ones like me, so I don’t know what young Irish people think about Saint Patrick’s Day. My older Irish friends are perplexed and bewildered by the modern-day celebration. In the Ireland of their childhood, Pat’s Day was like the most boring Sunday afternoon you could ever imagine, times a million. Everything was shut and nothing happened. For one friend’s father it was particularly traumatic because the only open bar on Pat’s Day was the Protestant club, which resulted in ethical turmoil and moral conflict. Needless to say, beer trumped his Catholicism.

Pat’s Day has become something of an institution, a day when we all become a bit Irish. It’s an excuse to drink Guinness in the morning and wear a leprechaun hat and generally behave like a good-natured goose.

The club had made quite an effort. The staff were decked out in funny hats, oversized sparkly bow ties and other things that I’m sure real Irish people never wear. Top o’ the mornin’ to you, Kaycee!

A whole load of Irish activities had been organised, including that grand Hibernian tradition “hitting each other with big foam sticks on a bouncy castle”. What would Finn McCool say?

There were warning signs. It seemed a bit unfair to me, like leaving a loaded revolver on the table and then shrugging your shoulders when some punter gets plugged. Anyway, what kind of injury could result from being donged on head by a foam ball and falling onto an inflatable mattress? While drunk? Hmm.

It might have been Pat’s Day but we still had to have the meat raffles. I’ve had a moan about the meat raffles before, which seem to go on for about 96 hours. I think it’s the endless calling out of numbers over the tannoy, the failure to claim, the redraw, the further calling out of numbers over the tannoy. I think it’d be better if we just blindfolded a child who then stumbled around the room until they bumped into someone, who was then presented with a meat tray. Or perhaps we could tie them to drones and drop them from the air on unsuspecting customers. (The meat trays, that is, not the blindfolded children.)

I doubt this will happen. Barry was very happy. He won two – yes, two – meat trays. They weighed more than he did.

Meanwhile, the bouncy Irish activities had moved outside. A cheerful leprechaun had inflated a game that involved people whacking a ball on a rope at one another. I would liked to have seen Miley Cyrus on there, she’d have been an act.

I bumped into a couple of coppers. They’d come from Goodooga, which was quite startling. Either Goodooga on Pat’s Day is so excruciatingly boring – like Dublin in the 1950s – or the Ridge’s police were terrified of bouncy castle bedlam and called for back-up. This young fella was charming.

His older colleague was less so. I think he may have chucked a sickie on the day they did “community policing” at copper college.

Back inside, people were still donging each other with the foam stick-balls. I’m guessing it was more fun to do than to watch.

To go back outside to where we were sitting you can go through the glass-walled smoking area or through the TAB Pool Room. This latter pathway always feels like some kind of airlock or sterilisation chamber.

I was trying to find the words to describe the feeling I get whenever I go through this room. The banks of unattended screens look dull and defeated without people to animate them. I thought of “poignant”, but that doesn’t quite hit the mark.

I despise the semi-industrialised extortion that promotes itself under the jolly title “punting”. Go on, have a punt! You know you want to! Surely only a sour-faced wowser with a stick up their backside would get upset at the prospect of a good punt.

The only good thing about this gambling room is that it wasn’t full of people gambling.

Back outside, a crowd had gathered around the Miley Cyrus bouncy castle, though no-one was game enough or drunk enough to actually get in there and start the donging.

We settled into our pints and wondered about Stuff In General, such as “How Irish was Patrick anyway?”

I got my sister a DNA test for Christmas. I’m guessing I’m pretty much like her, sharing the same parents and all that. We expected our heritage to be a combination of Scots and Vikings so we were both taken aback at the result: 69% Irish! Bejaysus and begorrah!

Strangely, the news did not make me feel any warmer towards Pat’s Day, which has always felt a bit forced and lame. I like that people dress up, and think we should all wear hats with leprechaun ears on more often.

Something deep inside me also likes the idea of a day when everything closes, even the pubs. But I also know that, like my friend’s dad, I’d find a way to overcome my ethics and find a place that served beer. It’d be un-Irish not to.


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