Saint Paddy’s Day again.

Someone mentioned to me recently that it was Ash Wednesday, the traditional day introducing the Christian Lenten period (approximately 40 days and night) prior to Easter and, on the spur of the moment, I reverted to my childhood habit of ‘giving up something’ for Lent, for the first time, I have to admit, in several decades.

Back then, it was things like chocolate and sweets, candies, lollies or whatever sugary confections are called nowadays. Later in adolesence, it was coffee, cigarettes and beer so, foolishly perhaps, I made a rather abrupt decision about three weeks ago to avoid, abstain from and eschew all red, white and rosé wines as well as all spirits of an intoxicating nature – whiskey, brandy, cognac, tequila, rum (dark and light), vodka, gin, vermouth, Campari, Cointreau. That leaves me with beer, of course, but as I never have or drink beer at home  – usually wine or spirits sufficing – and only rarely venture out to the pub – yes, really! – I have to admit I am finding the whole business not only tiresome but also frustrating 

Well, it is almost that time of year again – thank God for Saint Patrick – when Irish people around the world raise a toast – in my case, a pint of Guinness – to the national saint and patron of the far flung western isle. As I mentioned in a previous post on this topic, St. Patrick’s Day, coming as it does, halfway through the Lenten period is a particularly important day for those struggling with their resolutions and abstentionism because St. Patrick’s Day – 17 March – is considered not only a Holy Day of Obligation (where practicing Catholics must attend a church service) it is also a Day of Dispensation when all vows, resolutions, renunciations, abjurations, disclaimers and abnegations are temporarily lifted so that a toast may be made to the Patron Saint. Yippee!

In honour of him – and all things Irish, I’d like to present a sample from the little known corpus of Jim Casey, the Bard of Booterstown * in this singular paean, not to the national saint, but to the national drink!

The Working Man’s Friend

When things go wrong and will not come right,

Though you do the best you can,

When life looks black as the hour of night – 

A pint of plain is your only man.

When money’s tight and is hard to get

And your horse has also ran

When all you have is a heap of debt –

A pint of plain is your only man.

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,

And your face is pale and wan, 

When doctors say you need a change,

A pint of plain is your only man

When food is scarce and your larder bare

And no rashers grease your pan

When hunger grows as your meals are rare –

A pint of plain is your only man.

In time of trouble and lousy strife

You still have a darlin’ plan

You still can turn to a brighter life – 

a pint of plain is your only man.

* Excerpt taken from the amazing novel set in Dublin At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien 1951, 1966. First published in London in 1939, about as unalike Joyce’s Ulysses as a novel can be, any attempt to explain the ‘plot’ must founder on the incredible, mishmash of Celtic myth, drunken nonsense and the ‘biographical reminiscence’ sections inserted by the narrator and the magic of plain language perfectly delivered at a lyrical level.

‘This is just the book to give your sister if she is a loud, dirty, boozy girl’ according to a review by Dylan Thomas.