Last week, promoting better community relations in Northern Ireland, I devised a short but informative guide to "the other side" from the perspective of Pradesans.
No stereotypes, no clichés, but instead something of a scientific handbook. It has proved spectacularly useful, is already pasted up on staff notice boards across the Six Occupied Counties and is pushing for admission to the curriculum.
Spurred on by public acclaim, this week I examine characteristics which clearly distinguish Catholics, known by their 'other side' as 'kethlix' or 'kahhalicks'.
1. Unlike their uptight neighbours, all Catholics love life. They have a party piece on their lips at all times, some oul come all ye or stray bit of poetry to act as balm for those awkward social situations that leave Prawds standing around clearing their throats.
2. Even in death, Catholics have more fun. They throw a wake – no soulless funeral homes for them. Even members of Opus Dei can deliver Riverdance routines like the Waves of Tory on a dining table or the detached lid of a coffin.
3. Kethlix have the gift of the gab. Whether it's charming the lay-dies with whimsical observations about life or just spinning a shaggy dog story for sheer love of words, Catholics waltz with language.
4. Catholics have a natural affinity with all aspects of Latin culture. So even those who put margarine on burnt toast for Lent and whose idea of drama is the Corrie omnibus, will appreciate opera, bull fighting, festivals where people end up squeezing red wine out of the bladders of goats, senseless vendettas and extended families.
5. Catholics have big families of people who aren't related to them. Fictional great-nieces, aunties who are never visited. These big families just get bigger, only depleted by death or marriage to a Protestant.
6. Catholic relations are always welcome and always greeted by wild ceilidh dancing. Protestants live lonely lives as sad spectators of the revelry Catholics enjoy with all their very many friends.
7. Catholics pretend to find Christy Moore 'great craic'.
8. They spell it 'craic'.
9. Catholics 'understand' the arts at a deep instinctive level. While materialist Prods go around asking what the point of all this tomfoolery is, all Catholics love all the arts. Look for one with eyes closed, a playful smile about the lips as they get the reference to Raftery the Blind Harpist.
10. All Catholics love Gaelic football, hurley, camogie and handball. Listen out for "I'm off up to Rossas to see the throw in (NB: not kick off) of the Co Antrim under-16 Bulmer Hobson Cup between the Isaac Butts and the Pearses."
11. Kethlix take 'wee runs up' to Dublin. True, Protestants venture south to visit the old homestead they were driven from during the Leitrim Clearances in 1374 and may go on to the Free Stayit capital. But they 'go down' to Dublin like Livingstone into the Interior, all mosquito nets and last letters to loved ones, not as the natural heirs of the 1919 Dail.
12. Kethlix are never happier than walking along O'Connell Street reminiscing about Oliver St John Gogarty with a rolled-up Ireland's Own in their back pocket. (The reality, of course, is that they – just like visiting Protestants – are terrified of getting stabbed with a syringe outside McDonald's by some guy in a wooly hat with a dog on a string. To admit that, however, would be to wound national pride.)
13. Kethlix are jealous of their membership of the Great Family of the Irish nation yet in Spain on holiday they're inexorably drawn to the table where the Ulster Prod is hooting and honking their common bizarre accent to the annoyance of all the other guests, especially those from Carlow.
12. For Kethlix the English language is a foreign abomination which they have learned to master out of pure bigoted resentment. The language of their heart is Irish. Even when they don't understand it, they mysteriously feel its meaning ... but can't express it. They feel sorry for Protestants who can't sense its inner beauty. Protestants who speak Irish are an everlasting puzzle to them.
15. Catholics think that, because Prods don't have any guilt, they are having a great old time leaping in and out of each other's beds.
16. Catholics insist on watching EastEnders on RTE, not wanting foreign trash like the BBC in their homes.
17. During Royal occasions – weddings, funerals – the Catholic home with the curtains drawn is not enduring a bereavement but trying to conceal the flickering of the TV screen, to which the occupants have been glued for six hours.
18. Such is their anxiety to find the shortest possible Sunday Mass, Catholics time their clergy and seek out the fastest celebrant wherever he may be performing. So keen are they to get their Sunday duties over with quickly, they go on Saturday night just after Final Score.
19. They leave out the last 15 seconds of the Lord's Prayer for reasons as above.
20. If someone says "Protestants have more fun", they will be a Catholic.