St Patrick’s Day- a day when wearing green is mandatory, and the drinking of Guinness is compulsory. Unfortunately my green clothes are woollen and today is 30 degrees, and I have a greater preference for Black Bush, of which there is none to be had when I’m at work. I’ll just have to content myself with fulfilling user requests for Irish jokes (I kid you not), and indulging in a bit of Undertones and Van Morrison (and U2!) when I get back home from work.
I’m in the midst of planning a quick journey back to Ireland in August-September- my fifth time back since leaving in 1972. My extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins) has yet to meet the latest additions to the clan and it will be a chance to have four generations of the Bookgrrl family under one roof. My parents will be there at the same time, which will be interesting- the last time I went on holiday with my parents was 20 years ago! And to answer a question I am sure is on the tip of your tongue- there are no other librarians in the family- my father’s side were teachers and my mother’s side were health professionals.
It’s a strange feeling returning to Ireland- a jolt of excitement and a feeling of home. At the same time, my Australianness can become apparent when the discussion turns to politics. The refrain from my relatives is “You just don’t understand!” when I try and get them to explain some particular reason why perfectly sane people feel the need to parade or refuse to let school children walk down a road. My replies alternate between “I know!”, and “Thank God I don’t understand!”. The other reply is to quietly bang my head on the table and have another drink.
I did politics at uni and made sure to study the politics of Northern Ireland. Yet there is studying a conflict and actually living it. Both experiences are miles apart-one is quite clinical and objective, the other is visceral- it seeps into your bones and affects you in so many ways.
Last time I was there, I visited Derry with Mr BG. It’s a beautiful city, and hard to believe it was a war zone not that long ago. Many of the buildings around the walled part of Derry have been razed, so the walled city stands on a rolling green embankment. Standing in front of the memorial near Bogside commemorating those who died on Bloody Sunday, all I could feel was an overwhelming sense of sadness. I remember sobbing as if my heart was breaking, looking at how young some of the victims were. Maybe it has seeped a little into my bones…