Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish rocks!

[A 2007 photo, I think; yesterday's weather wasn't quite so good!]

I had planned to blog about Saint Patrick's Day immediately after tagging along beside yesterday parade on Munich's Leopoldstrasse, past the Triumphbogen (in the photo to the left) , then along the Ludwigstrasse to Odeonsplatz. I kept pace most of the way with the Scottish pipe and drum marching band which, although they seemed to have practised only three tunes, gave the event an intriguing pan-Celtic, non-sectarian note.

Then this morning I came upon this KippReport item, providing a Sandlands 'hook'...

A little over a month after banning St Valentine's Day, the Saudi authorities have passed up another opportunity to allow business to cash in on a public celebration. Around the world millions of non-Irish, non-Christians will be celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland, the Welsh-born Patrick. This will involve the wearing of large green hats, hopping up and down to fiddle music and, most problematic for the Saudi authorities, the drinking of Guinness.

Like Valentine's Day, for many people St Patrick's has lost its original meaning. It is now an excuse for people to get together and have a good time. In the northern hemisphere it coincides with the lightening of the days and the first signs of spring. The celebrating needn't involve drink. And it certainly isn't exclusive to Christians or Irish.

Can the Arab world create a similar global day, something that excites non-Arabs and non-Muslims, from Seattle to Shanghai?

The Munich parade was a feel-good event, even before the black brew started to flow at the after party. The groups taking part in the march were so varied that I actually felt obliged to take notes...

> There were three other musical ensembles, apart from the valiant kilted musicians who repeated Mairi's Wedding every two hundred metres or so, and they were traditional Bavarian
oompah Spielmannsz├╝ge which I happen to enjoy listening to.

> The several Irish contingents may not have contributed any music, but lines of pretty ladies gave their all with with spirited
Riverdance interludes.

Various sports were represented. The Deutsche Cricket Bund surprised me; whenever the progress of the parade was halted, a bunch of boys set up stumps, the bowler managed often a complete over, and the (plastic) cricket ball was often happily, and indeed athletically, caught by a spectator.

> Bavarian Rugby and Irish Huirling were represented as was Australian Rules Football.

> A small but enthusiastic marching group had a banner promoting English Language Theatre to the M├╝nchners. Plays to be staged in the Amerikahaus. A Canadian initiative, though.

> There were flag swingers from Hohentwiel doing things I honestly thought belonged to Italy's tradion. And there was a slightly glum bunch dressed in the uniforms of Napoleon's soldiers, but they were neither armed nor musical.

It was, in short, a portmanteau of passions, permitted and promoted by the hospitable Irish on their National Day, reminding us not just of a multi-cultural Europe but of a whole world of nations, traditions, sports, cultures and faiths.

Then I thought back to the several UAE National Day parades I have watched from the vantage point of my office on Abu Dhabi's Corniche. I think that on the National Day when the parade includes a gaudy grab-bag of expatriate contingents of all colours and persuasions, that will be the sign that most of the Emirates' problems belong to the past.

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