The Irish Don’t Drink — Much


Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, the one day a year when everybody wants to be Irish!  Which is interesting — given that Irish history is a litany of famine, conquest, rebellion, exploitation, betrayal, some more famine, mass emigration, civil war, bombings, assassination, another famine, whiskey, guns, God, and a particularly vigorous branch of the Catholic Church.  (But that’s a story for another time.)  Personally, I think most people celebrate St. Paddy’s Day because they’ve have been sucked in by the myth that the Irish drink a lot, and they just want to get in on some of the action.  I have no idea where the world got the impression that Ireland is basically 5 million alcoholics, clinging to a rock in the north Atlantic — I’m looking at you, Hollywood — but it just isn’t true.  And today’s as good a day as any to shoot that fairy tale in the head and bury it in the back garden.

Disclaimer: I’ve been known to throw back an adult beverage or two in my time, so I cast no aspirations on any country, region, ethnic or religious group — and if they’re eagerly offended, it’s their own damn fault!

No, the Irish are not the biggest drinkers in the world.  (They aren’t even in the top ten.)  According to no less an authority that the British media outlet The Telegraph, the biggest boozers on Earth are the good citizens of Belarus.  I’ve never been to Belarus, but I’ve seen bits of it on TV and quite frankly — I’d drink, too.  After that, the top ten have all the usual suspects — Lithuania (#3), Russia (#4), Romania (#5), Ukraine (#6) — and a couple of surprises, Moldova (#2) and Andorra (#7.)  I have no idea where Moldova is, but I assume it’s a scrubby little country east of the Balkans, and Andorra is basically a handful of mountains stuck between France and Spain.  Quite frankly, if I was sitting on a mountain, looking at the politics of those two, I’d be tempted to pull a cork or three — and that’s exactly what goes on in that part of the Pyrenees.  It turns out, that, per capita, the folks in Andorra drink more wine than anyone else on the planet.  However, they’re not that far ahead of #2, Vatican City, which, coincidently, also has more priests per square centimetre than anywhere else in the world — which probably makes “morning after” confession a piece of cake.  The other weird one in the top ten list of wine drinkers is the Falkland Islands — although it’s not surprising.  After all, what do you do in the Falklands?  Watch the wind blow and hope to hell it isn’t full of Argentineans — again?

Actually, the only place Ireland even figures into the top ten of drinking anything is beer.  However, they’re only #7 — substantially behind the Czech Republic (#1) and another couple of rowdies, the Seychelles (#2) and Namibia (#5.) The Seychelles are about 100 strips of sand, half- submerged in the Indian Ocean, so I imagine there are a ton of drunken tourists upping their numbers — but Namibia?  Good, bad or indifferent, Namibia normally never comes up on the panel.  About the only thing I can say, with any confidence, about Namibia is they drink beer — a lot more than the Irish.

So tomorrow, if you feel the need, have a Green Beer or a Guinness or whatever your pleasure, but if you want to sop hops with the big boys, wait a couple of days until March 21st.  That’s Namibia’s Independence Day, and the truth is those folks know how to drink!

St. Patrick’s Day Trivia

There is no true story about Saint Patrick’s Day.  The great storytellers of Ireland have changed the tale around so many times over the years that fact, legend and “that sounds good” are now inextricably woven together.  St. Patrick himself was probably English (but don’t say that too loud.)  He likely learned his trade in France and showed up in Ireland when the whole place was covered in heathens.  When you’re starting with that kind of raw material, you’re going to have a certain level of success in the converting business.  There’s also no evidence that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but, as any Irishmen will tell you, there’s no evidence that he didn’t.  This, of course, calls up the annoying habit the Irish have of answering a question with another question.  For example, “Are you a carpenter?”  “What if I am?”

In actual fact, the St. Patrick’s Day we know and love was started by the people of New York City (Boston claims they started it, the lying buggers) where there are just about as many people of Irish descent as there are in Ireland.  The Irish in Ireland don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with drunken parties the way we do in North America – although that’s changing – and most true Irish call St. Patrick’s Day Amateur Night.  They watch the North American parades and revelry on TV.

However, if you’re going to get after the Guinness on March 17th, here are a few tidy bits of trivia that you can throw into the mix somewhere between the first “wee touch of Bushmill’s” and “Come out and fight, ye Black and Tans!”  Sprinkle these around, and you will amaze your friends and confound your enemies.  And if that isn’t Irish, I don’t know what is!

Ireland has produced more Nobel Prizes in Literature per capita than any other country in the world.  They have four: Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.

If you want to be part of the literary scene in Dublin, go to Glasnevin Cemetery and leave a pint of Guinness on Brendan Behan’s grave – everybody else does.

Riverdance actually happens quite a bit in Irish pubs.  Overcome by the music, ordinary patrons will get up and dance.   Here’s just a word of caution, though: leave it to the locals — it’s their pub.

Ireland is the only place in the world where windmills turn clockwise.  Mention this after a couple of adult beverages and then shrug your shoulders and say, “Nobody knows why.“  (Actually, it has something to do with the gearing mechanism, but don’t tell your friends that.) 

The Guinness Book of World Records was started by Norris and Ross McWhirter, in 1954, as a handy reference book to settle arguments in pubs.  Originally, one thousand copies were printed and given away as a Guinness advertising promotion.

The O’Connell Bridge in Dublin is the only bridge in Europe that’s wider than it is long.

Although he’s no longer qualified to be a saint, you can find the remains of Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin.

An Irish toast: “May you live one hundred years and then one year more — to repent.”

On average, between 6:00 pm on Friday and 3:00 am on Monday, the city of Dublin consumes 9,800 pints of beer – every hour.

An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman were drinking one night when the conversation turned to death and funerals.  The Englishman said, “At my funeral, I want them to say that I was a fine family man, and tell all the people that I was a good husband and father.”  The Scotsman said, “At my funeral, I want people to talk about what a good friend I was, loyal and trustworthy.”  The Irishman thought about it for a moment and said, “At my funeral I want somebody to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”

Irish Proverb: You’ve got to do your own growing — no matter how tall your grandfather was.

There are hundreds of statues in Dublin, and the locals refer to them affectionately and often.  For example, the statue of Molly Malone on Grafton Street is called “The Tart with the Cart,” the Two Women by Ha’Penny Bridge are called “The Hags with the Bags” and the water statue of Anna Livia is “The Floozy in the Jacuzzi.”  Without using Google, can you guess what Dubliners call the statues of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde?

The Guinness Book of World Records holds the Guinness World Record as the book most often stolen from public libraries.

Speaking of Guinness, Arthur Guinness started brewing his famous beer at the St James Brewery in Dublin in 1759.  He was so confident that he would be successful at making beer that he signed a 9,000 year lease on the property.  Currently, Guinness pays approximately $60.00 rent every year for the enormous facility.

An Irish curse: “May the curse of Molly Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can’t find you with a telescope!”

It rains every day in Ireland.  They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing.  If you don’t believe me, show up without an umbrella.

Legend has it that the Irish monk Saint Brendan was the first European tourist to visit the Americas — over five hundred years before Christopher Columbus.

And finally, when asked about the Irish, Sigmund Freud once said, “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody!

St. Patrick’s Day Quiz

As you may have guessed, March 17th, is St. Patrick’s Day — when everyone in the world is Irish.  Unfortunately, due to the economic slowdown, Ireland can no longer afford to grant everybody temporary Irish citizenship.  Therefore, they have devised a series of questions to test your knowledge and commitment to Ireland heritage.  Please consider every question carefully and answer truthfully.
Lying will be severely punished.
When you have completed your quiz, e-mail the answers to Tourism Ireland — they will be pleased to hear from you.  On St. Patrick’s Day, regardless of your test scores, you may drink Irish beer (whiskey) sing Irish songs, dance Irish dances, read Irish poetry etc, etc, etc.  However, unless you passed the test and have been officially notified, you may not wear any goofy “Kiss me, I’m Irish” paraphernalia, including (but not limited to) hats, t-shirts, buttons and underwear.  Thank you for your cooperation, and good luck.

1 – The Shamrock is the symbol of Ireland because
a) The Scots already took the thistle
b) we’d look pretty stupid looking for a lucky leek
c) it beats the hell out of Sham Wow

2 – James Joyce wrote complicated stuff like Finnegan’s Wake because:
a) some idiot gave him a typewriter
b) He knew you can fool some of the people all of the time
c) he couldn’t actually see what he was doing
d) he lost a bet with Yeats

3 – Which of the following (be specific)
a) The Playboy of the Western World
b) County Cork
c) the foggy, foggy dew
d) Ryan’s Daughter
e) Bernadette Devlin’s cousin

4 – Which of the following does not have a prominent statue in Dublin?
a) Oscar Wilde
b) Molly Malone
c) James Joyce
d Barack O’Bama

5 – True or False?

6 – The phrase “Erin go bragh” means:
a) All girls must wear underwear
b)Let my people go, ya thievin’ English bastards
c)Who’s for another pint, then?
d) Like “aloha,” it doesn’t mean anything — until the tourists show up

7 – The Irish used to eat a lot of potatoes because:
a) They’d been on sale since the 4th century
b) Wouldn’t you, under similar circumstances?
c) They were involuntary vegetarians
d) the recipe called for them

8 – Fill in the blanks:

9 – Sinn Fein is:
a) a community group whose members just happen to carry automatic weapons
b) the political wing of the International Realtors’ Association
c)Bombs ‘R’ Us
d) The love child of Eamon de Valera and Connie Markiewicz

10 – If it weren’t for the Irish, we would all be:
a) up to our ass in leprechauns
b) nursing a hangover on March 18th — for no apparent reason
c) drinking Swedish whiskey and singing “When Norwegian Eyes are Smiling”
d) finally able to tell Bono his 15 minutes are up

11 – Compare the following:
George Bernard Shaw

12 – Ireland is:
a) 4 million alcoholics, clinging to a rock
b) a Celtic theme park off the coast of Europe
c) a minimum security prison for poets and folk singers
d) a large greenspace filled with a whole pile of people still pissed off about that Easter thing

13 – Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland because:
a) he wanted them all for himself, the greedy bugger
b)eco-diversity hadn’t been invented yet
c)he was giving them up for Lent
d) some Englishman told him not to

14 – “I’d rather rule in Ireland than spend the rest of my life in a stinking English prison.” – Liam, Prince of Donegal (1573-1604)
In a land of poets and storytellers, why did Liam take such great pains to state the bloody obvious?  Be specific.

If you answered yes to any of the questions, you’re a moron and don’t deserve to be Irish.
If you sang your answers – You’re Welsh!
If you’re still stuck on Question 4, you might very well be Irish.
If you re-programmed the quiz to make a video game called “Leprechaun Hunter,” you need to come out of the basement and ask your parents if you’re Irish — if they haven’t already moved.
If you answered the questions on YouTube and declared yourself the winner, Sheen is an Irish name.
If you answered – a – c – c – d – true – d – b – wtf – a – d – no – c – d,  congratulations!  The party starts at 6 and the poetry starts at 7.  See you there!

Of course, #14 is a trick question.  If we remember our Chronicles of Cork, what Liam, Prince of Donegal actually said was, “I’d rather go to school in Ireland than spend the rest of my life in a stinking English prison.”  Which mays a lot more sense.