Saturday, May 31, 2014

if i could tell you i would let you know

It's about half one on a bank Holiday Saturday afternoon, and Rosie is off in the mountains somewhere, cycling up big bastarding ones to get ready for the Wicklow 100 next weekend. I'm lying around, still in my PJs, resting my legs after running a combined 17 kilometres or thereabouts over the last couple of days. I'll do at least 14k later on, once everyone's fucked off from Bloom and given me back the park. I'm training for the marathon in October, and Rosie's going to do all the build-up races too, up to the half-marathon in September.
Whilst there was something of a need on my part to balance out the fervour for craft beers and fine whiskies that has grown in me over the past couple of years, there are other reasons for our new found fondness for keeping fit.

[Andrew realises with alarm that he is about to go down some tedious road of linking he and his wife's exercising habits to their ongoing difficulties in conceiving a child. This is amateur self-analysis at it's worst, it is narrativising of the worst kind. There is simply no need for it. He is filled with self-loathing, and goes out.]

I went to the Lilliput Press while I was out. I'd never been in there before, despite it being two minutes from my house, and small, independent publishers of envelope-pushing writing being very much the kind of thing I would expect myself to be into. I bought a couple of books from the friendly folk in there, dodged invitations to book launches, and thought for a good while about picking up the new collection of essays by Hubert Butler. I'd never heard of him before, but something made me think I might like him. Perhaps it's that several of his essays are about Irish Protestant identity. I'd like to write about my Irish Protestant identity sometimes. But only sometimes. I had to take a colleague aside recently and tell him to cut out the Proddy jokes. It's not that it wasn't funny, it's that it didn't remain funny on a daily basis over two years. That's the one thing I can definitely articulate about being an Irish Protestant: no-one can look at you as any kind of a victim when you are perceived (usually correctly) as being from a position of privilege. It's also, like being an Irish Catholic in America, or a Jew anywhere, far more than a religious identity. Your status as lapsed, agnostic or atheist don't really come into it.

It makes me feel a little squeamish talking about this stuff. I don't know why. I read bits of Hubert Butler's essays on being a Protestant and other things, but I didn't buy it. Perhaps I should have. The Irish Times says I should have. He does that pleasing thing, that Con Houlihan did too, of ending his pieces in the curtest of manners. I can do that.

3 comment(s):

Jo said...

I haven't read him either, but he's very well known - a mamber of my godparent's family too. Worth reading?

Protestants talk about Catholics like that too, though, no? It's the way of our world.

Andrew said...

You mean Protestants make jokes about Catholics? I'm sure they do, but I can't say I've ever heard it, honestly. Plenty of remarks get made about priests, I guess, but I'd be less inclined to do it than most of my Catholic friends would. It's like that thing where you kick the shit out of your little brother but you go mental if anyone else tries to do it.
Proddy jokes just tend to imply that you're rich or snobby. Which, as I said, is often fair enough.

Tessa said...

I lived in England for a few years in the 70s and that, combined with a posh education by nuns and the fact that I grew up listening to the Beeb rather than Radio Eireann, left me with a hard to define accent.

A few months after I moved back to Dublin, I had the misfortune to go on a double date, with a guy I'd recently met and his best friend, who was a bit of a wanker. We got into a hot and heavy argument about something or other in the pub, and I mouthed off in fine old style (as had been my wont since I was a nipper, I might add).

In the Ladies later on, the wanker's girlfriend began yattering about something or other. And then, she floored me by saying something along the lines of "well, you wouldn't know what it's like, being a Protestant and all." An assumption she had arrived at, partly because of the non-accent, but mostly because of the opinionated self-confidence of yours truly.

While I was in England, whenever the subject of the Northern Ireland Troubles came up in conversation, I had this sanctimonious spiel about being able to understand racism because, you know, a white person meets a black person and thinks "we're different," but, for the life of me, I could not imagine a Catholic meeting a Protestant and thinking something similar because, how would they know?

Yeah. Turns out I was full of shit.