When St Patricks Day falls on a Friday night, as it did this year, you know its going to get messy at some of Sydneys dodgier watering holes. And theres nowhere where the rivers of Guinness flow more freely that at Sydneys Irish pubs.
I had the misfortune to walk past Paddy Maguires and Scruffy Murphys late on Friday night, and let me say that if Dante was updating his circles of hell for 2006, there would be an Irish-themed pub named after a fictional alcoholic leprechaun somewhere right near the bottom.
They were crammed wall to wall with tubby, sweaty backpackers in football jerseys, regaling one another with tales of potato famines, or whatever it is that the itinerant Irish talk about. And the most amazing this was that both pubs had queues as long as Ulysses snaking down the road, to toss in another gratuitous Irish cliché. Twas a depressing sight, to be sure.
And all this to celebrate a saint whose only claim to fame was expelling snakes from a country that never had any. Which is tantamount to giving someone a sainthood because they expelled all the homeless people from Point Piper.
That said, Id certainly be willing to venerate St Clover if our Lord Mayor expelled all the intoxicated Irish backpackers from the CBD next St Patricks Day.
On Sunday afternoon, the city pubs were full of thick Irish brogues once again, as the St Patricks Day parade wended its somewhat wobbly way down Park St. And judging by the look of them, some of the patrons were still kicking on from Friday night.
But perhaps the real reason I dont tend to enjoy St Patricks Day is that Ive have always been extremely jealous of the Irish. They always seem to be having more fun than me. Especially as Im not really much of a drinker and really, St Patrick’s is not a day you can enjoy Guinness-free. For example, I dont think Ive ever gotten so intoxicated that I developed an interest in Gaelic football.
My background is a blend of Welsh, Scottish and English, but I havent a drop of blood from the British Isles most fun race, who come from the land with the most beautiful countryside and the best beer. Perhaps this jealousy is why the England were so keen to conquer the Emerald Isle?
No other national day, and no other patron saint, is as popular in Australia as St Patrick. We dont all get together to down haggis and shortbread on St Andrews Day, or have yum cha on Chinese New Year. And no other nation has quite as many theme pubs all over the world as the Irish. Every corner of the world has a dubious Irish pub like this one , which has seven branches in Tokyo alone.
And perhaps this is why few peoples are as popular around the world as the Irish. Look at Jimeoin, for example. You cant tell me his jokes would go down half as well if they were delivered in an Australian accent.
But fortunately, there are some exceptions to the stereotypes in the Irish community, of course. I was amused to discover that there is a real Bridie OReilly (the original name of the Paddy Maguires outlets, and still in existence in Melbourne).
She works at Charles Darwin university in the NT. And her area of academic expertise? The negative effects of alcohol. Seriously. Now theres a funny yarn to tell the lads over a quiet Kilkenny next St Paddys. If theyll have me.