I’ll try to keep my homily brief. But be warned — I’m Irish. (Bono)
Written by Frankie Rose on March 16, 2021
HAPPY ST PADDY’S DAY!
I was thinking to myself, sitting here in my green shirt, what a fun, happy celebration this is for the Irish everywhere.
As a child growing up in troubled Belfast, you had to get your Green Jumper on. On 17 March, don’t dare leave the house without the Green Jumper on. Nothing much related to celebrating a bearded man and his snakes, but more to show those Orangemen who they were dealing with. Yes, that scratchy knit was my papal armory against the perceived Protestant enemy. God help them if they laughed at my embroidered shamrock pedal-pushers and matching Nana Maskouri NHS specs. I had God on my side, and I looked GREAT! (Don’t worry this was just faux-hate, I ended up marrying ‘A Protestant’, to do my bit for the Peace Process, of course).
St Paddy’s Day is all about the music and, sloping into my teens, I discovered the behemoth that was U2, Ireland’s poster boys for poetic melodies, serenading an entire planet. I loved them. Larry Mullen (don’t forget the ‘Junior’) looked like and drummed like an angel (if angels played drums) and Bono, well he was just the Ultimate Rockstar, my teenage crush.
I marvelled at their exquisite vinyl artwork, reading every word and every credit (who was that girl they thanked on the ‘Unforgettable Fire’ seven inch? Why can’t that be me?), watched them on MT USA (Vincent Hanley, God rest his soul) and wrote them long heartfelt letters to PO Box Wherever, waiting for them, any one of them, to propose.
Me and the stalker mates found out they were recording The Old Grey Whistle with some unknown called Sinead O’Connor. Shivering in the Belfast ‘summer’ night, (-1 degrees max), a limo pulled up, the window rolled down, a handheld out three entry passes and mumbled something about the cold. ‘You’ll catch your death! Take these and go in that door!’ Old folk were obsessed with the cold. Anyway, two hours of heaven followed listening to the premiere of the Joshua Tree and Sinead O’ Connor’s exquisite Mandinka. “And they say, see how the glass is raised? I have refused to take part” she belted. Almost knew she would be trouble with those sort of lyrics. Afterwards we hung out back hoping we would get an autograph, that paper thing people used to use back in the day. It felt like Stars in their Eyes … a smoke mist billowed, a halo light shone, and a shadowy figure emerged…
Now the word for leprechaun in Irish is leipreachán/luchorpán meaning ‘a diminutive supernatural being in Irish folklore, a sort of solitary fairy, often depicted as a little bearded man, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief.’ This is what came towards all 5ft 10 of me – I towered over little Bono even in his Cuban heels and cowboy hat (My rule was never to date anyone smaller than me). Why was he so small? He’s not like that on the telly! A Rockstar leprechaun – I can’t marry him!
I imagined Mrs Mummy Bono saying to Little Boy Bono that old Irish proverb “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Yes, his growth in spirituality definitely surpassed his growth in the vertical.
Anyway, my adulation continued unabated throughout my entire life. At uni, I dated a fella who looked like Bono and he was about six foot. He didn’t have the Bono bank balance, artistic talent, voice, charisma, smooth accent or well, I’m not sure what he had – he was a poor man’s Bono and that suited me fine.
The first big festival was Feile 90, or Trip to Tipp (and yes, it is a long way to Tipperary, especially from Belfast on skanky trains), a smorgasbord of Irish talent – Hothouse Flowers, the Four of Us, An Emotional Fish, Energy Orchard, The Saw Doctors, The Stunning. A St Patrick’s Day celebration in the middle of August, hearts bursting, proud to be Irish and proud to be still standing (a three-day diet of Buckfast, ciggies and zero sleep).
If you’re interested, I was lucky enough to find my ‘Bono’ in the end. Well, it was Poor Man’s Bono’s mate – Lyonsy. I had moved on to my Jon Bon Jovi/ Billy Idol phase (blonds, good bone structure, lips).
Go n-eirí an t-ádh leat.