Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The united, but disparate, kingdom

We'd anticipated some adjustments with living over here, and failed to grasp a whole bunch more (as regular readers will no doubt know), but one of the stranger ones -- for me, anyway -- is the causes for celebration (or lack thereof). Those of you who remember my confusion over the silent passing of Robbie Burns' Day -- Burns Night here -- probably assumed I'd get the point, and, oh, I don't know, expect very little of Saint Patrick's Day. Well, I'm a bit thick like that, I guess, 'cause I get up today, throw on my green, and express genuine surprise when the day passes unmarked, on the radio, at work, etc.

Now, I'm sure there'll be plenty of celebrations this evening, but you have to understand that the town is in the grips of the event of the year right now: the Cheltenham Festival. Many, many Irish visitors make the trip over for the week, which usually coincidences with Saint Patrick's Day, apparently -- so many, that I've heard it said that some pubs can sell enough champagne and Guinness this week to pay their operating costs for the rest of the year. But the pints raised to Ireland's patron saint outside that contingent are few and far between, I've been told. Again, why does this surprise me?

I guess I'm still wrestling with just how significant the Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots are to the way I grew up in Newfoundland and Maritimes. As I said on that occasion this year, Robbie Burns' Day wasn't celebrated when I was growing up, but it was a grand occasion amongst my circle of friends back in Ottawa, thanks to Joe's pride in his Scottish heritage (and his love of whisky, it must be said). Even with this shining discrepancy in my past, though, it's slow to sink in.

In my defence, a friend was saying today that even the day set aside to celebrate England's patron saint, Saint George, isn't enthusiastically observed. (That remains to be seen, of course, next month.) It's a provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, something I'd completely forgotten about until reading a bit for this post. (Someone from back home'll probably comment now, wondering how I could forget the Saint George's Day parades or something. :-P ) Apparently, Saint David's Day, for the patron saint of Wales, is even a bigger deal here -- although not by much.

Well, that's what's been kickin' around the old noggin' today, as I watch our quiet little town turned upside down in pursuit of the Gold Cup and other laurels.

PS: To those offended by my sweeping generalities and blatant inaccuracies regarding your kingdom, did you really expect better from a colonist? ;-)

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