An Irishman's Diary
Impressive as their achievements to date have been, I’ll be disappointed if the people behind “the largest St Patrick’s Day promotional drive in history” (Page 2 yesterday) don’t manage the ultimate coup.
Imagine the scene. St Peter’s Square, March 17th. It’s day three of the conclave and rumours are emerging that a new Pope has been elected. A vast media village and the TV-watching world awaits.
Of course the Vatican could just announce the news by Twitter – this is 2013, after all. But no. Tradition must be observed. So in centuries-old fashion, all eyes are trained on the chimney over the Sistine Chapel.
Will the smoke be black or white? Or will it be the usual grey, causing general confusion until the man appears on the balcony and declares: “Habemus Papam”? Suddenly the first puff rises from the chimney. A murmur of consternation spreads through the square. Another puff. Journalists blink in puzzlement. Not for the first time, they bitterly regret the decision to round off last night’s drinking session with that bottle of Crème de Menthe.
But the smoke is flowing now, and there can be no doubt. It really is green. Cue stunned reactions on Sky News and a thousand other live broadcasts.
Then – “this just in” – a press release from Leo Varadkar explains that, after lengthy negotiations, the Vatican has agreed to enter the spirit of the St Patrick’s Festival. Yes, there was a fee involved, but this will be far outweighed by the promotional returns.
And sure enough, newspaper “colour writers” (the term has never been so apt) are already attacking their lap-tops. Within minutes, news outlets all over the world are running pieces about Ireland’s papal smoke coup, all with variations of the same headline, “Faith and Begorrah!”.
No doubt the Tourism Ireland people are working secretly on this as we speak. In public, however – and wisely – they have set the bar lower, by claiming that Buckingham Palace is their “ultimate” target for greening.
Fair enough. Although personally, for the British promotion, I would settle for American-style dyeing of rivers, and one in particular.
I’m thinking of the river in Sunderland. Which town would not normally be a priority in tourism drives, I know.
But putting dye in its waterway would make for a pleasing historical circularity. Even if the authorities refused, citing legal problems, it would allow for a new ballad to be sung ever after in local Irish bars, viz: “No more St Patrick’s Day we’ll keep, his mem’ry to hold dear/For there’s a cruel law agin’ the greenin’ of the Wear”.
Perhaps, like me, you were intrigued by a headline elsewhere in these pages recently: “Luxury resort developer ‘lost run of himself’.” It accompanied a report of court proceedings in which a Corkman was alleged to have diverted, for personal use, $13 million of a fund assembled to construct an up-market Caribbean resort . The court heard claims that he had used the money for “grandiose” projects, including the purchase of a “Falcon jet”, a “race-course”, and a “wedding by Franc” (he denied all the claims).
But what I found interesting about the headline was its ambivalence. By which I mean that it wasn’t immediately clear – to me, anyway – whether the claim that the accused had “lost the run of himself” was said by way of indictment or mitigation.
Indeed, because of the convention for court reports to use the passive voice (“it was claimed”, “the court heard”, etc) a lot, I wasn’t sure from the text either.
Yes, having lost the run of yourself usually has negative connotations. It’s not something you aspire to as a verdict from your peers. And yet, in certain circumstances, it can be a judgment tinged with sympathy.
The key is that the subject must have undergone some kind of chastening. Even a court appearance might suffice. Then the comment that the person “lost the run of himself (for a while there)”, can be made more in sorrow than anger.
In the still-underdeveloped field of Irish psychoanalysis, I predict that the condition of temporary personal run-loss will be formally recognised in years to come.
There may even be scientific ways to measure it, eventually, other than the crude, begrudgery-based system we rely on now.
Then, I foresee it being pleaded as a partial defence in court cases. It might even be on a par with diminished responsibility. At the very least, it will be considered in parole hearings, at which stage psychiatrists may be called to give evidence that the applicant has regained the run of himself, fully, and is no longer a threat to society.