So, you think you are Irish eh?

January Diary 2021

Imbolc preparations annualy require lengthy walking.

It is rare to be in a group of men. A meet with men in a stranger’s house happens due to flags.  I saw the Irish tricolour fly from his window. I want to know why. I knocked on the door and walked up the stairs. His are carpetted. Mine are concrete. Three men and me sit in a room. We are neighbours, dog owners and lovers of old Ireland. We all feel Eire Free. We opened up to each other, together, within moments of that chance meeting without fear. It was an upstairs flat in a block of four in a small town under the Ochil Hills. We met by fate and we spoke of politics and the local dog shit problem. My inner Mother Earth says ‘make them write poetry first then send them north to the empty beaches. Give them drums.’

When we finally bring men, women and their dogs to the empty mansions in fertile land, where hemp growing is a must, I hope these men go. Could they dance and drum and sing and write poetry on beaches, cliffs, dykes? If one of these men wated to live by a beach in a house, he should be given the opportunity to sign up, working hemp farms all over the Highlands and Moray. The houses are there, lying empty, waiting for families in towns and villages that need families. When the revolution comes I want them to know Highland living behind the spin. These men need space to vent. The land is there, waiting, unused. 

One plays ‘up the ‘Ra’, songs from You Tube. The other tries to sing. A third enters and says.

‘Oh that’s what we’re up to is it?’

‘She’s Irish.’ 

‘Aye, ah ken.’

The third man is bald and has glasses. He has an identical jumper to mine. But mine is genuine hand knitted by an old spinster aunt in Wexford. I take off my heavy Icelandic wool coat and show him.

‘Mine’s from Primark. I did two tours of Belfast. We might as well talk aboot it. I think they should pull the troops out. The British army can’t fight the Irish for Ireland. Never gona happen, Nuh.’

He inhales then waits for a reply, from me. I engage contact by placing my palms together and saying.

“I am happy to meet you. I have never spoken to an RUC guy before.’ I can feel he questions that. Does he have a way of checking me out? He stands up. He walks to the window.

‘I had to go. I did as I was expected. My family are all army.’

‘I am sorry you had to do that and I am sorry about the provos. They were arseholes.’

‘You hear that?’ He turns and says to the other one.

‘I’m going fer a shower.’ And the man of the Maze hunger striker flags strips a bit. He is honed and fit and wee and tough. I see the sinew in muscle in his flash.

‘I met him because of his flags.’ I reveal to the man in the jumper matching mine. ‘It overwhelms me to realise the maze hunger strikers of 1981 are remembered here in the heart of Scotland in 2021.’

‘He has Bobby Sands on a flag. He flies it from his window.’

‘I know.’ I say. ‘I saw it. I had to take a photo for Facebook.’

‘And you flew his hoops.’

‘I did, yes, I know what that means, the football strip. Somebody told me what that meant once.’ And an image of that time, with the Tinder psycho, pops up. If only she would plead guilty and get help. She’s a suffering animal. But she explained flags and hoops to me. She’s a Rangers fan. Green hoops circle Celtic. The phrase stems from jerseys. She told me pick a team and stick to it. I didn’t like her team. I chose the hoops. She was punching.

He’s still playing ‘Up the ‘Ra’ songs in the shower.

‘Celtic football team was built by a priest, to put food on the tables of families. Irish families, Muslim families. In Glasgow.’

‘If you say so.’

‘They sing the old songs.’

‘I have to go, to a football match and hear the songs. Will you take me?’

‘Not me. Go as a casual, to the stand.’

I should tell him go to the beaches in the Highland and islands. Take ten years to be in brochs learning Gaelic or lamenting the head on a pint at a shinty match in Portree.

‘You wouldn’t take me to the football?’

‘Nuh,’

‘Go on yer own, feel it for yourself.’

‘You’re right. I will.’ I said. ‘And yup guiltay as charged, I flew a tricolour from my dining room window last week. I flew the his hoops. I made up the green white and gold from scarves.  I had a huge knitted gold scarf from the same aunt. Two emerald and moss green scarves. A white linen tablecloth folded between them. I hung it out my dining room window. Just for solidarity. Because I can. It doesn’t mean we’re dating. It means we’re cousins. Our mothers and fathers are cousins.’

‘You’re from bandit country, I heard.’ Said Jumper Twin. ‘I patrolled The Falls, kept the Shankill occupied.’

‘My family are from out the back of the bogs of north west Ireland and Limerick, a city down in the south.’

‘My name’s Jim.’ He offers his hand but I don’t shake it. Not just the fear pandemic. He twists his fingers, pokes at his ears, puts his fingers in his mouth.

Flag man returns, retrieves clothes.

‘This is how it is with us. He’s a prod. He marched on the 12th, round here in Clackmannan, and in Stirling.’ He likes to explain.

‘And you’re now best pals?’ I say. ‘How does that work?’

‘Show yer bite on yer arm Jim” says flags. Jim rolls up his sleeve. There’s a foot long gouge, skin gratfed badly. 

‘They lot,’ he nods to flag man’. ‘flung old cars from the Wallace Monument. I got bit by one.’

‘That’s in the past now. It’s done. I wore that uniform because I had to. You know that Kai. There was no other option. I signed up and was sent to Belfast. We were given guns and told who to look for. We were ordered out of vans in Belfast. You fuckers from bandit country always knew we were coming.’

‘It’s in the past jim.’

‘I know that Kai, but I still wore that uniform and would never have had a chance to talk to you. I think of all the years we could have been hanging out.’

‘We all get on around here now. The catholics and the protestants. Celtic and rangers. We didn’t, up until a while ago.’ Kai is good at explaining stuff to me. He does seem to understand that I’m out of place in this place.

‘Why would catholics and protestants not get along here? What does the occupied area of Ireland matter to you lot, here in the heart of Scotland?’

Kai turns up the volume on his phone. The Fields of Athenry plays. Kai and Jim and I sing The Fields of Athenry together.

‘How is the music of my childhood, the same as yours, when you grew up here?’

‘Because fuck the fucking Buckiingham shite and bollox. We all need rid of them.’

‘I agree.’ I said. ‘It is time the Royal whoever gave Ireland back to Ireland. And Scotland. Yes. ‘

‘We are all going in the same direction’ says Kai. ‘Peace. Five years ago me and him would never have spoken. We were enemies for years.’

‘Because of religion? Here in Clackmannan?’

‘Oh yes.’

‘Singing The Fields of Athenry.’

‘More than just that. Have you heard the boy from Denny sing?’ Asks the one who has been quiet in the corner.

‘No. I haven’t, ‘ I reply. ‘I haven’t heard many of these songs in over thirty years. I left Ireland in 1990. My kid knows nothing about Catholocism or the struggle for troops out, English out of Ireland.’

‘Start her off with films on Amazon Prime. Let her make her own mind up, but show her the truth.’

‘She’s more than aware of the trauma in generations of Irish is being and has been acted out and projected in anger for too many years and that dialogue is not common in some Irish families. I walked away from the bullshit of it years ago. Cousins, pals of friends’ cousins, random young farmers in Irish country towns ran guns in the eighties. Total wankers. I thought at the time they were arseholes. I am sorry you had to go up against them in Belfast. They were just traumatised lads, from traumatised fathers and mothers with secrets.’

‘And so were we,’ says Jim. 

‘My mother is a McGee from bandit country. That’s all I really know about her. Fourteen kids in a tin roof shack in a field of rocks.’

‘So is mine.’ Says Kai. I feel the pain in his heart. Can he feel mine?

‘They were traumatised as fuck, our mothers from the bogs of Ireland.’ I said.

‘Did you see that another place is being investigated as a Magdalene Laundry place where women were used as a baby factory?’

‘I did”

‘Not just a few. We’re talking thousands now. This happened to thousands of women in Ireland. They had to give up their babies and never speak of it again.’ 

‘You keep up to date with what’s happening in Ireland now?’

‘I do.’ says Jim.

How best to organise the Drogheda bards and scribes and import them to Wallace country in 2021? These men in the room need to tell their stories. I wonder is Jim’s mum from the bogs too. 

‘There’s so much anger and pain in the women a generation older than me.’ I tell Kai. ‘And secrets that eat them up. I taught my daughter about Saint Brigid, about the Brehon Original Instructions for the care of the land and the people. I taught her the law of Ireland before the English came. The old ways of the Mother and woman as Goddess.’

He looks me in the eye, ruffles his clean line of hair. There’s two balls of white light hanging over his head. They are energies in a different dimension. Not everyone can see them. I can. They are two truths he wishes to release. But now is not the time. The football is starting soon.

Are these men aware of dimensional energies, witchcraft, shamanism, meditation or permaculture?’ How can I arm them with the knowledge of Earth energy as power?

If their parents or grandparents hadn’t left Ireland, they would be running guns and fighting the English. Here they are, still feeling more Irish than Scottish, wanting England out of Scotland. 

‘How did peace happen between the provo and the proddy boys here?’ I ask the men.

‘Mowlem.’ Says the quiet one in the corner.

‘Where are the poets and writers around here, in your circles of pals?’

Nobody answers, they shake heads, twist fingers, smoke.

‘Do any of ye play a musical instrument?’ I ask. Nobdy laughs, nobody raises a brow. ‘Drums, guitar?’

Not even a grunt. They just silence. Oooops.

‘You probably dont know that up in the highlands we have been fighting to build sheds in woods, clear land and grow hemp and veg as communities. We need the English landowners to fuck off, to release all inherited lands and live in England. We also need the second home owners to release some wealth to the people.’ I say. ‘We have built and we run Nature schools. Men have taught themselves how to dance and drum on beaches with fires.They learned it from women like me who love an old Irish Saint called Bridget.’

They listen silently. 

 ‘Have you heard of Saint Brigid?’ I ask the three men. No one speaks for a moment. ‘She’s a good place to start researching a different history of Ireland. Like Mowlem but older, bigger and magical. And she’s not on Amazon Prime.’

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