[This is last year's St. Patrick's Day-themed blog post, but since a lot more people are reading this blog than there was this time last year, I've decided to drag it out again. Plus, it's Saturday. When have I ever blogged on a Saturday, eh?]
To celebrate being one of the only countries in the world whose national holiday is celebrated, loved and adored by millions of people who don’t even live here and whose connection to us is tenuous at best, I thought I’d present to you five Irish things that I celebrate, love and adore.
1. Our Writers
A nation of storytellers… especially fantastically funny and talented lady ones! I’m currently reading The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, the reigning Queen, and I’ve got Ella Griffin’s Postcards from the Heart coming up next. I’m on the e-mailing list for Oprah’s Book Club updates, and this week she was nice enough to feature 10 Irish Writers You Should Know (which includes Edna O’Brien) as well as Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie in her reads to look out for in March.
[2012 UPDATE: As it turns out, I'm reading an Irish writer this St. Patrick's Day as well! Anna McPartlin.]
2. Tayto Crisps
Ah, to explain Tayto Crisps. Well, first of all – for you non-Irish-or-UK folk – by “crisps” I mean “potato chips”, but here in Ireland we could never say Tayto Crisps, because Taytos (or Taytoes?) is enough. Nothing else tastes like their cheese and onion flavor which they invented, thank you very much, in the 1950s. Recently they opened a theme park here. Yes, a theme park. The best way to eat Taytos is to take a bag of their cheese and onion, a bar of Cadbury’s Dairymilk chocolate (the real stuff, not the crap Hershey’s make and they brand as Cadbury’s in the US – yuck!) and eat them together, i.e. a square of chocolate followed by a few crisps. I can tell you this because I’ve done years of research in the area.
3. Dylan Moran
Before he was selling Black Books on Channel 4, he was a stand-up comedian here in Ireland and I was lucky enough to see him in Cork’s Opera House so long ago that I think I was in secondary school at the time. He’s everyone’s favorite chain smoking, seemingly constantly drunk laugh-inducer, and in this clip he explains the great mystery that is the “Irish Face.”
4. Barry’s Tea
Barry’s tea is not only made here in Ireland, but here in Cork. And not only here in Cork, but about five minutes down the road from where I live! Quite simply the best tea ever, we drink umpteen cups of it a day. Every day hundreds of envelopes leave Ireland via the postal service, stuffed full of Barry’s tea-bags and headed to Irish ex-pats all over the world. I’ve sent and received a few of them myself. You can actually buy actual Barry’s tea in the States, where it comes in a green box, presumably to push the Irish thing. (It comes in a red box here.) Pictured above is the actual box of it I found in a Goodings in Orlando.
5. Section 195 of the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act
Otherwise known as the Artists Exemption. Once upon a time in Ireland, money earned from writing was tax-free. Then Irish writers started making a lot of money (think a famous blonde chick-lit author who sells millions of books all over the world) and the government decided to cap it, at €250,000 a year. Then things got bad, and it went down to €125,000. Then things got really bad, and it went down to €40,000. But the good news is that most of us scribes aren’t making that kind of money, so the Artists Exemption is still a good thing.
Well, it is something I celebrate, love and adore.
I also really liked this article by Reuters, 17 Bizarre but True Facts about Ireland – but is not having post codes really that bizarre? Really? And I think Guinness is a stout…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!