Grateful 30

I was born Irish and I’ll die Irish. My nationality is something I used to take for granted. Being Irish wasn’t an issue. It simply was what I was. It didn’t become an issue until I first went to the States. Living as an expat in California was akin to wearing your Irishness on your sleeve – literally. It seemed that the Irish abroad were a lot more patriotic and a lot more… well… Irish… than the Irish at home. Some took up Irish-language lessons. Others joined Irish drama groups. More still started playing hurling or camogie. It was as if moving away from home and being in the minority instead of being in the majority had tilted that patriotic fulcrum to the extreme.

I used to resent people claiming Irish heritage. Why couldn’t they be happy with being American, or English, or whatever… why did they have to be three-quarters this and an eighth that? In my innocence, an innocence bred under the umbrella of a solid uprearing and fixed values, I never really appreciated what it was to be Irish until I started travelling in earnest.Then I saw how universally liked we are. Perhaps it’s our self-deprecation, or our conviviality, or our ability to talk to prince or pauper. Perhaps it’s our humour, or our melancholy, or our sheer pig-headedness. Perhaps it has nothing to do with us at all and more to do with the celluloid image immortalised by the forty shades of green, the Quiet Man, or the infamous Jack Doyle. Who knows.

Last Monday evening, I sat with hundreds of others in the stands of Ferenc Puskas stadion to see Ireland play Hungary in their last soccer international before Euro2012. The match was delayed because of the thunder and lightning. But that didn’t matter. Some say it was the best part of the evening! We were in the only covered stand in the stadium and I had a back row seat so the weather didn’t bother me. I barely knew anyone on the team. I have little interest in soccer but had come out to support the home side. I’m Irish. That’s what we do.  In the pub afterwards, I managed to disagree with most of the post-mortems, quite happy to have a scoreless draw and no injuries. A classic case of very little knowledge being a very dangerous thing. The craic was good – so good that for a while, it felt like being at home. And then it hit me. Irishness – being Irish – is a state of mind. It travels with you and is not tied to any one place.

Brendan Behan, a favourite author of mine, reckons that other people have a nationality but that the Irish and the Jews have a psychosis. And perhaps our sense of reality is a little distorted and perhaps the sky is a little too green in our world – but it is a lovely world in which to live – and a lovely identity with which to travel.

This week, as the temperatures rocket and the heat brings out my bad humour, as I watch my list of things to do grow longer, as I start scheduling lunches in July, I am grateful that here, in Budapest, there are people (Hungarians as well) who know  what it is to be Irish – and I am grateful that I know them, too.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

Thoughts from a mad house

It was 2003. It was London. It was an average theatre night for me. I had booked my tickets for Stones in his Pockets at the Duke of York’s theatre well in advance and was looking forward to seeing this bout of Irish madness on stage. My company for the evening was a German colleague who although quite fluent in English was embarking on a personal challenge to see whether or not he would understand Marie Jones’s script.

All was well. I had the tickets in my diary and had stopped for a meat pie before meeting up with yer man Klaus. When I went to pay for my pie – I had my purse. But when I went to check the tickets,  I no longer had my diary. I immediately flashed back to the young lad who had jostled me coming out of the tube and loudly cursed him. My bloody diary – useless to him but priceless to me. The theatre people, obviously well used to this sort of happening, accomodated us in our seats but I was in dire need of distraction ’cause back in those days, I tended to dwell on things!

I knew little about Stones other than there were two actors who between them would play 15 characters. Set in County Kerry, a film called The Quiet Valley is in production. Two extras (Jake Quinn and Charlie Conlon) are trying their luck. Jake is local and in true Irish fashion, is related to half the village. He’s just returned from New York and is nursing failed dreams of becoming a movie star. Charlie is from Northern Ireland and is on a tour of the island tryingto put a failed relationship and a busted business behind him. As the filming progresses and the play moves on, we see the two boys playing a number of roles: Caroline Giovanni – the star of the film, who is having trouble with the Irish accent; Old Mickey, a local famous for being the only surviving extra from The Quiet Man, which was also filmed in the area; Dave, a rigger on the film who has a supply of drugs. Fifteen in all.  The versatility this requires of the actors is quite something.

Next week, Friday, 16th March, as part of the St Patrick’s festivities in Budapest, Madhouse actors Matt Devere and Mike Kelly will once again stage Stones in his Pockets at the International Buda Stage (IBS) over in District II at 1021 Budapest, Tárogató út 2-4 (Tram 61 between Akademia and Kelemen László utca‎). Tickets : 2,500 Ft. Students 2000Ft. Student Groups (10+) 1800 Ft.

To book : [email protected], tel 06 30 433 1922 or
Borbáth András at the IBS : [email protected], tel 061 391 2525

It’s been years since  I first saw this production and it’s stuck with me. I even kept the programme! If you want a night of excellent theatre by two lads who regularly sell  out their Complete Works of Shakespeare (Sör), then book your tickets today. A good night guaranteed.