If you’ve been following us for a while you know that I was somewhat bemused by our experience of Armistice Day in Normandy. So, you will understand why I didn’t want to get excited when I found out that we’d be in Ireland for St Patrick’s Day.
Obviously, this event is huge all over the world, but most of my St Patrick’s experiences have been pretty rubbish to be honest. I’ve never been to the New York parade, but I have spent a whole night pulling pints of Guinness and another not being able to get into the pubs on Kilburn High Road. My favourite, up until now, was that spent in an Irish B&B in Carcassonne. The owner also runs an Irish pub and told us in no uncertain terms that we’d be better off out of it. He was probably right and we had a lovely meal and then sat and drank wine in the deserted courtyard.
This year, we woke up to rain, lots of rain. I checked the internet and after a fair amount of searching found that there would be a parade in Ballina about half an hour’s drive away, where we do our shopping. It wasn’t until 4:30 so against all advice to “get there early for a good spot” we parked up in a deserted car park at around 20 past.
Worried that the rain had stopped play we were pleased to find, if not throngs of them, at least enough people to line the main street of the town. Now, I’ve happened to be in the right place for a parade a few times, Mardi Gras in Sydney being the most notable, I’ve also been lured by the sound of distant drums to a Fat Tuesday parade in Montpellier. So when I heard the far off sound of bagpipes, yes the first group was of the local Scottish pipers, the slightly soggy hairs stood up on the slightly damp back of my neck.
The parade went on for a good hour and everybody including the teenagers, swigging from cans of Monster, next to us seemed to enjoy it. My favourite bits, to my shame, were the poor little rain drenched cub scouts, who didn’t look like they were having any fun at all, and the float that had a coffin complete with man inside who kept rising out of it in a very Vincent Price manner. The small child whose father had hurriedly scrawled the word “Irish” on her forehead seemed particularly excited and adorable with it. There were even some vintage tractors to serendipitously tie us back to Normandy. Oh and the disco float, there’s always a disco float. Is it the same one, perpetually doing the parade rounds? Yeah we’ll say it is.
Our night was topped of beautifully by a few quiet pints in Healy’s, one of Ballycastle’s three pubs. Don’t get me wrong, it was busy, but there was room to sit down and a happy, chilled out atmosphere. Best St Patrick’s day ever, I think so.