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Lift a glass to St Patrick, patron saint of revellers

By Lindy McDowell

Published 16/03/2016

Going green: a man dressed as a leprechaun with Coppell High School Marching Band
Going green: a man dressed as a leprechaun with Coppell High School Marching Band
Madonna performs during the Rebel Heart World Tour in Macau, China

Charlotte and her hen party were all dolled up and ready to revel. They were wearing lurid green tutus, sparkly green tiaras and matching, specially printed T-shirts. That's how I knew they were Charlotte and her hen party.

It was early Sunday afternoon in London and the ladies had chosen to celebrate the bride-to-be's last few days of singledom by attending, as you do, an event to commemorate a major saint of the early Christian church.

St Patrick, in other words. The saint who is now globally accepted as the patron saint of party animals. Which is why Charlotte and her hen party fitted right in with the lads in green onesies and Wolfman facial hair, the girls with the very skimpy green basques, the legions of leprechauns and all the rest of the usual Guinness-hatted mix.

London's St Patrick's Day celebration is held annually on the Sunday closest to the 17th. They got a great day for it this year. Brilliant sunshine, if a little chilly. The parade took a while to get going. Almost as long as Madonna does these days. There were banners from many counties and various London Irish sport and community groupings. Prominent among the banners was one saluting Clonakilty black pudding.

And there were floats. Lots of floats. Some were basically just lorries with a bit of bunting strung up, so that in places the parade seemed to be more a celebration of articulated transportation than a tribute to a saint.

Other floats had dancing displays. Mostly young girls whose dresses featured Celtic symbols in Kardashian fluorescence. They weren't always in step - but were all the cuter for that.

There were ceilidh bands playing traditional airs about building Las Vegas in the hills of Donegal and a massive, massive, American marching band.

From Coppell High School in Texas, this impressive band is the size of a regiment. What traditional Irish offering would they give us, I wondered?

Uptown Funk, as it turns out ...

There was another giant in the parade. One of those gargantuan mechanical puppets. He was presumably supposed to represent an Irish giant. But I imagine the same big lad gets trolleyed out for just about any parade or ethnic cultural bash that requires a bit of spectacle.

An equally tenuous link with the saint was the inevitable reference on many floats to this year's 1916 commemorations - something which seemingly went over the heads anyway of those watching tourists clutching their large Union Jack gift shop carrier bags.

More familiar imagery would have been the leprechaun suits, the oul' boys togged out in tweedy waistcoats and flat caps and the predictable beer and Guinness marketing merchandise. All of which will doubtless alarm the students at Cambridge University, who seem to spend their time these days searching out what they see as "reinforcement of negative stereotyping."

But, if this is stereotyping, it is self-stereotyping. And anyway, is an appetite for a bit of naffery and revelry really such a negative thing?

The fascinating, amazing thing about St Patrick is that he has become, like Google and Guinness, a truly global brand. His day has become an international celebration of celebration. For its own sake.

He unites revellers right across the world. He unites us in Northern Ireland (which is probably even more impressive than turning the Pyramids green.)

People envisage him in different ways. The churches one way. The breweries another. The new St Patrick's mural in loyalist south Belfast by the brilliant Ross Wilson features a very 21st century-looking Paddy. A curly headed guy who looks like he might work in IT.

But the mural is also illustration that this is a saint who pre-dates our division. That he can be, and is, shared by all sides.

Even by party-loving non-believers.

Hands up, I didn't watch all of the London parade. I'd other more pressing things to do on the day. Like heading to the pub.

To reinforce the stereotype.

This pepper caper leaves a bad taste

Strange things they do in restaurants, Part 1278. Apart from seating you two inches away from the only other customers in the place, why won’t they trust you with the pepper?

Your meal arrives and closely behind comes the waiter carrying a large pepper mill. Like Leonardo DiCaprio with his Oscar. Would you like some? You nod and they scrunch a bit over your pasta. Then they take it away. Do they think you’re going to run amok with the thing if they allow you to do it yourself? Do they think you’ll overdose? Or is it a cost issue? Pepper doesn’t cost that much. Does it?

Madonna’s custody fight no stage show

I really feel for Madonna in her current custody battle for her 15-year-old son.

Whoever is at fault in this sad family battle (and there are probably failings on all sides) it must be breaking her heart that her boy is refusing to come home to her.

Whether it’s a good idea to incorporate her distress into her stage show is a different matter, however.

That and using pictures of the lad as a backdrop.

Given the standard teenage capacity for tolerating parental embarrassment, I doubt if this is the smartest way to get him back onside.

Belfast Telegraph

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