Some mornings truly are fabulous …in the real meaning of the word. The sense that they are peerless…matchless even. There was a stillness as I walked by the laggardly flowing water and the morning mist was slowly steaming off the grass as the sun was breaking through the haze. The leaves were a riddle of autumnal shades ,rusts, siennas, ochres ,oranges, browns , reds and bright limey yellows.A better day than any of the past summer. The wife said she fancied a shepherd’s pie for dinner so I was walking to the local supermarket and filling station to get a few vegetables .I like to put some carrots and some sweet parsnip into the mix. I’d no sooner left the shop door , carrying my bag of groceries and was crossing the forecourt, past the petrol pumps, when a strident voice almost demanded my attention. I did that cartoon double-take where you turn around looking for someone else, and wondered what I’d done wrong .Had I had a senior moment just then and forgot to pay at the till or had I done the usual thing and left my keys behind?
The tall bespectacled figure with silvering hair approaching me , simply asked outright …”What’s the speed?” For a moment I was nonplussed…”Huh?!” I thought . That’s a very oblique kind of thing to say…a bit too abstract…. and in a strange sort of accent too. I realised then that he was a German fellow and quite possibly a tourist. Then he followed with ,”Is it miles or kilometres?”The penny finally dropped . This poor man and his wife who was cheerily waving from the car with the opened door had obviously crossed the invisible green, white and orange dotted line of the border , possibly some twenty miles back and was baffled by the designations on the road signs. Should he be driving through town at a rate of thirty kilometres per hour or should that be thirty miles per hour? I didn’t bother telling him that the road signs were only there for the optics and everyone just drives at whatever speed they like ,anyway.I didn’t go into a long explanation describing how two parts of the island had settled on differing measurements of weight and distance …imperial , metric and sometimes a mixture of both…and differing banknotes..several varying political leanings….and so on…etcetera , etcetera …It was much too complicated to begin telling him that he’d crossed an imaginary border that actually ran through and bisected towns and farmlands…even the roads…and sometimes the very homes..dividing a dwelling into both a republican and a monarchist home at the schizophrenic same moment.. The very same island- land, but temporarily, for some years now, two separate jurisdictions…like those invisible lines that separate towns from the countryside or counties from each other….all make-believe stuff anyway, of course.With the only information he really needed , he thanked me and himself and his wife took off into the traffic …probably at forty miles per hour through the thirty mile limit……
“Selling Irish goods and souvenirs is one thing… but when every last vestige of Northern Ireland’s place within the UK is totally obliterated by a sea of green leprechauns and pro-Irish paraphernalia – well that’s … a hate crime against NI British citizens,claimed serial protester Willie Frazer in an obviously slack day’s news-story.
Where would you start with this one, eh? It would appear that Mr Frazer , while departing from Norneverland’s International Airport was affronted by all the collections of green-hued tat on sale for passing visitors.You know , the kind of drek that only a passing tourist would ever even want to consider buying anyway . Most of us pass it by, on our way to the bar for an over-priced pint or a “G and T”. Mr Frazer , somehow, not yet realising that to a visitor to this tiny island -land ,a country no larger than a fair-sized farm in Texas, that the consideration in a tourist or visitor’s mind as to the various micro- tribal niceities and conflictions of the native citizenry, when buying a memento of their brief stay here, is a complication too far.
To the rest of the world the most benign thing they consider about this seemingly magical little island , is that besides being lushly forty shades of green , as Johnny Cash would have it, it is also peopled by leprechauns, faery- folk and banshees , drinking pints of dark stout, followed by whiskey chasers. smoking long-stemmed white- clay pipes in thatched roofed pubs.That’s what tourists coming here, from afar, want to buy into .That and the great food, beautiful scenery and music and maybe a bit of fishing. They certainly don’t really want to consider the violent interactions that some of the natives occasionally display.
That imagery along with the “shamrock” symbol ,which has its roots in the introduction of the cult of Christianity to the island many years ago , supposedly by a Welshman called Patrick, is also the Christian imagery that has colonised the rest of the planet and is therefore the one one that is used to promote the island internationally. It’s original meaning might have been largely lost but it is a well -known symbol of Ireland. What exactly has Mr Frazer in mind that might better promote the brand , given that to explain all the politics and various social strands in any country would take a library of books and a lifetime to argue over them? A brand symbol is one that is most effective.
To state , as Mr Frazer somewhat incoherently says, that… “it is a hate -crime of sorts against N. I. British citizens” ….really takes some convoluted thinking and certainly betrays a vague sort of paranoia. It appears that Mr Frazer doesn’t actually realise that although he is currently designated a “British citizen”, as has been the case for anyone born within this area for some one hundred years because of some political and violent machinations in the past ,it doesn’t mean that this might always be the case, given the ebb and flow of politics throughout the ages .The fact is though, that Mr Frazer , having been born on the island of Ireland will always be an Irishman, albeit a British one at present, and if he needs to get down to the actual detail of his geographical aborning , a Northern Irishman as opposed to an Eastern , Western or Southern one. A “British Irishman” then?.. So what’s the problem?He could be a British Welshman or a British Scotsman depending on circumstances but it would n’tmake a lot of difference except he might wave a symbolic leek or a thistle.
If there is something to protest about, concerning the international airport, it’s not the green -tinged rubbishy T-Shirts and comic tat and logos on display , but it should be how the roads to and from it might be better improved to accomodate the increasing flow of traffic through what for the most part is a tractor-clogged farmland…why the prices are so high for some sometimes sullen service and why people are treated like cattle . Now that really would be worth protesting about.