THIS week is St Patrick's Day, and, as an Irish person living abroad, I feel a vague sense of obligation to drink twice my bodyweight in cider, wear something green and polyester, drape a tricolour around my shoulders and end the day by vomiting in a shoe.
St Patrick's Day is weird, not just because it's based on a dude with a staff herding snakes, or the fact that Americans are way more into it than we are, or the fact that no one actually likes pipe bands, but because it's meant to make us all feel proud of where we're from, and for me, it largely succeeds in doing the opposite. My memories of Paddy's Day in Cork are of messy queues in the rain to get into a nightclub, queues to get served at the bar and then queueing for hours to get a taxi home. But at least at home, no one pretends St Patrick's Day is any more than an excuse for a piss-up.
Abroad, people look to you to exude some national pride, or at least to live up to their delightfully one-dimensional stereotype of a plastic paddy. They want you to prove your Oirishness by uttering a nonsensical saying read from the back of a matchbox 'in Gaelic' or singing a lovely song just like that Julia Roberts did in Michael Collins, or, at the very least, by head-butting someone who says their mum makes better stew than yours. Maybe the problem is that I don't need any of that rubbish to feel Irish.
Ok, so I've never been to a hurling match, but I have had impure thoughts about the only Gaelic footballer I ever saw in the flesh. Also, I am an Irish vegetarian, which is something of an oxymoron, but I only abstain from eating meat because of my deep love of cows and sheep. If anyone needs any proof of my ancestry all they need do is put me in direct sunlight for more than twenty minutes and watch my hair take on the texture of dried seaweed and my skin go a nice shade of radioactive. Or maybe the fact that I'm complaining about the one day of the year dedicated to celebrating Ireland is all the proof of my Irishness you need.