Saturday, July 5, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Drunk (In Norn Iron)

It's about 6:15AM and I can't seem to get shut eye. I am neither lulled by the pitter patter of torrential rain nor soothed by the ranting and raving drunken lunatic on the street. The makeup marathon sex hasn't seemed to help either. Seems to work for Mr. Crabby since he is snoring away here. So alas, I sit here eating left over chili whilst I type on the interwank.

All is good on the relationship front again. Yesterday Craig got out of work early and texted me to meet him at our favorite cafe. I was thinking, "Oh no, is he going to be breaking up with me over latte?". I see him with a tall glass of mocha and a chocolate fudge cake waiting for me at the table. "Things have been getting a little tense in the house", he says, "I thought it would be nice to take a walk and take advantage of the sunshine." The sunshine is a rare thing here in Northern Ireland and people take advantage of it as much as they can. I have learned my lesson in believing the BBC weather reports because they are never true. They reported torrential rain yesterday and it proved to be the opposite.

We sat and people watched for awhile. Durdles all dressed up and somewhere to go. Friday night is a big night for them. It's the start of the weekend and that means one get pissed drunk. They drink for recreation and it's to be expected since it's a pub culture. But I never understood getting drunk for pleasure. Where is the fun in acting like an idiot and puking your guts out? Oh well, when in Rome...

We went to Winemark and joined in the festivies. He got a 4 pack of Guinness and I got two bottles of cider...Mixed Fruit Kopperberg. Ahhh...Kopperberg, nectar of the gods! We also got some snacks at Centra, our home away from home. We dropped the stuff at the house and walked along the Lagan Towpath towards Ormeau Road. There was bit of a vibe going with people chillaxing outside the pubs having their pints. Everything was honkey dory until...

We saw flashing blue lights in the distance. Craig lets out a sigh and rolls his eyes and says, "Oh no, here we go, the police". "What's going on I say, is there a riot over there?" "No", he says, "it's a marching band, fuckin' hell". "Oh neat!" I was ecstatic and literally dragged him off his feet to go near the action. Craig is Protestant you see. His immediate family just wasn't into it. Although his extended family are well known super Prods. His aunt was seen on national television beating a priest over the head with an umbrella and telling him to get the hell out of the Shankill. The priest was just walking through there as an effort of solidarity and peace. Madness! Nevertheless, Craig hates what the Orange order marching bands stand for. From November until July 12th they march throughout the streets of Belfast. It's an annoyance really, they block traffic and make people late for work. In case you don't know, the Orange order is a Protestant lodge where super Prods get together and get pissed drunk and hate on Catholics (aka Taigs or Fenians).

We stopped in front of the orange order. I can hear the thunder of the bass drum, and the cracks of the snare coming closer from the distance. Bystanders excited like it's the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. And there I saw upclose and personal, super Prods in orange sashes, stoic and proud to be Protestant and British. Little boys holding their batons in the air and marching like little soldiers. Banners of No Surrender and William of Orange's mug.

Suddenly, the drummers and flutes stop. Everyone stands at attention and sings, "God Save the Queen". They always close with this song to show their allegiance to the Crown. Bystanders shout, "No Surrender!" From the corner of my eye, I see Craig roll his eyes. I ask him why he is ashamed of his culture and who he is. He answers, "As an outsider, you have a naive view of things which is understandable. But having grown up on the Shankill and seen marching bands all my life, I know what this represents. They are a constant reminder of why Northern Ireland became so fucked up in the first place. A bunch of mindless sheep who can't think for themselves. This is not about religion, it's about corrupt power and money. I can guarantee you that every person here is a paramilitary. They don't mess about. I don't want to have anything to do with them. Most of the world thinks this is what defines Belfast, but they are the minority. The majority is most of us normal people who just want to get on with their lives and leave the troubled past behind."

I see his point and I can't argue. And it is way too complex for me to understand. Unionists, Loyalists, Republicans, Nationalist. It's all Greek to me. More than likely, I was the only Taig standing in a crowd of Super Prods. I could feel the hostility and the agression. Just before the parade started, a chavette ranted, "Any Fenian that comes my way, I'll jam them in the face!". If only she knew who she was standing next

We headed back home, got buzzed, had poignant discussions on how religion makes you do weird things and how to safely remove yourself from harm when caught in the middle of a riot. Good times!

Anyways. Must. Go. To. Sleep.

No comments: