The Shamrock is appearing in the shops now...tiny wizened bunches stuck to a piece of card for you to send away to relatives and friends...it isn’t really Shamrock of course because there is no such plant...it’s actually an Oxalis which grows in huge abundance in practically every woodland but that’d spoil the romance of the Shamrock as a symbol of Ireland I suppose, so no-one mentions it...it’s rather like the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
You can buy it in pots as well and if you were to tip the plant out of the pot you’d find it hadn’t had a chance to put down any roots since it was yanked out of the ground by a group of Traveller children and stuffed into a pot they’d probably purloined from the back of the local garden centre.
Or if you’d rather not fork out decent cash for a bit of half dead plant, you can go for the felt version instead...they come with a little safety pin on the back to wear like a brooch...they’re made in China of course, but who cares.
There are hats as well...over-sized, bright green hats, with the tri-colour around the bit where the top meets the brim which must have a proper name but I don’t know it...
And bright orange wigs...which are intended to reflect the Irish red hair...they’re made in China as well.
Flags...well ,there is every size of flag your heart desires...little ones to jam into the window frame of a car...huge ones to flutter on top of a proper flagpole...or, if you have a teenager handy, to tie to the top of a telegraph pole...there are flags for small children to wave about and flags for sticking into a compliant horse or donkey head-collar...every market place will have a shifty sort of a person holding a Sweet Afton ciggie in the palm of his hand and a soggy cardboard box stuffed full of flags...for some wildly incorrect political reason they usually come from the North and sound like Ian Paisley...
If you fancy a cake then you can buy fairy cakes iced with bright green icing...but the traditional fare on Paddy’s day is a piece of boiled bacon put down on the cabbage...served with a white sauce and tatties in their jackets. Plenty of soda bread on the table of course and boiled eggs for the teatime.
Today you can break Lent...so if you’ve given up chocolate you can stuff yourself silly today and no-one will pay any heed at all, because they’ll all be doing the same. Same goes for the drink of course, because the whole idea of Paddy’s day is to get plastered...
Of course the shops are in a bit of a muddle because while they have the over-sized green hats and such like they’ve also plenty of Easter eggs on display...enormous creations swathed in acres of crackly cellophane tied up with pink ribbons...round the corner, lurking on the bottom shelf, are the economy range of rather sad little eggs in gaudy cardboard boxes. There’s probably as much chocolate in one of those as a small square from a bar...
Good Friday is in total contrast to Paddy’s Day...all the shops close between three and four o’clock...off-licences and ‘pubs are locked and shuttered...no ironmonger would dream of opening at all and those shops which sell other stuff, cover the displays of hammers and nails up with sheeting. You can let rip again on the Saturday if you wish and then once Mass is over on the Sunday, it’s down to the ‘pub to stuff yourself on New Zealand Lamb and drink, until someone calls you a taxi home.
I suppose it’s probably better than garrotting some unfortunate young man and burying him in the bog to ensure a decent harvest for the coming summer...