Sometimes you have to say goodbye. Sometimes you can’t have what you want. We really, really wanted our friends to stay but off they went anyway, off back across the Irish Sea, back where they came from. Of course a cynic would have quite a grim view of all this. They came to succour at the teat of the English economy and English opportunity; to mow their lawn over here for a bit and then, just when you’d become rather fond of them, fuck off back home to build a house. It seems to be a theme that, the Irish like to go home and build their own houses, which is a shame because there must be thousands of houses over there that never got filled when the wondrous Celtic Tiger got shot in the face and turned into a rain soaked rug. But I’m no cynic. How can I be cynical about people I love so much?
Our Irish friends are the very best kind of friends you could ask for. They’re loyal and generous but they know when to take the piss. A good friendship works when no-one is allowed to think they’re too special but they’re really very special all the same. I met them the same night I first met Wifey, in a house in Limehouse. It was a blind date kind of set up but I spend more time sitting on the floor talking to The Irish about The Troubles and the film ‘Hunger’ (if you haven’t seen it please do, but don’t mistake it with ‘The Hunger’ – one is about hunger strikes and smearing faeces on prison walls and the other is about lesbians and vampires) and doing my best norn iron, Ian Paisley accent. A bond was formed and they played their part in making sure Wifey gave me a few extra lame attempts at courtship. Now there’s another story.
Between them The Irish are fabulous. She’s bonkers in the most beautiful way possible and in a pub fight I’d pick her first for my team (bear in mind that by the time we’d get to picking teams I’d be several miles away). She doesn’t put up with much shit and she tells you what she thinks and in some people that can be annoying but she makes a great virtue of it. I told her I loved her when we hugged goodbye this morning and I don’t know whether that surprised her but it’s true (I tell him I love him all the time, because we’re gaylords); love her to bits like you do a proper friend that you feel safe and warm in the company of. I’d forgive her pretty much anything but I’m safe in the knowledge that she wouldn’t give a toss if I forgave her or not. Besides, you can’t forgive anything if there’s never anything to forgive. Wouldn’t want to fall out with her, mind you.
He, on the other hand, is a twat: tall and wiry, with the metabolism of a cheetah and eyebrows he must have stolen from Liam Gallagher. He’s proper Irish, sounds like he should be on the end of a phone giving a bomb warning, and he is as good a man pal as I can think of. There’s only a couple of men I would bunk up on an airbed with, and he’s one of them. Sure he tells an Irishman’s story; weaving about through various spuriously interconnecting strands before, an epoch later, coming to some kind of unsatisfactory conclusion, at which point I will come in with a killer line (that’s how I see it) that I’ve been thinking of all along and hopefully make him laugh that big, girly Irish laugh of his. And then we’ll have another drink and talk some more about logs. I’m a lazy bastard but there’s not much I wouldn’t do for him if I really had to, and that’s saying something.
And finally there is Irish child, a little blond sack of cheeky monkeys and really very cute when she’s behaving herself. I can count the number of our friends children that I like on a thumb-less hand. Thank someone she’s one of them because if she wasn’t I’d probably be buried in a bog near Enniskillen by now. They always say how excited she gets when she knows we’re coming to visit, but really she wants to see Wifey, because Wifey is patent and warm and playful. I, on the other hand would usually cross a minefield to avoid a kid but when she gives me a little hug you can’t help but give in. A scrapper and a charmer, just like her Mum. But not a tosser, like her Dad.
So they’re off and although it feels very sudden we’ve seen it coming for a while. They’ve made the best move for them and while that doesn’t feel like the best move for me I have to remember that no-one gives a fuck what I think anyway. It feels like they’ve moved to the moon but if anything Armagh is marginally less civilised. We can’t wait to get over there and it is a given that we’ll just pick up where we left off; the other mark of true chumship. The only reason we gave in and let them go is because that’s how love works – if you love someone set them free, if they return it was meant to be etc, etc – but they’re not coming back so that’s a load of waffly old bollocks. They’ve gone a bit further away and that just makes seeing them all the more special and a bit more exciting. The selfish bastards. Love you loads, The Irish. Here’s to you and a brand new start in the pissing rain.
G B Hewitt. 19.10.2019
Mr Irish and I once went to a pub near his and as we strolled around for a table he looked up and said “oh, we can’t use this bit, it says it’s a family area” to which I replied, incredibly pleased with myself, “don’t worry, we’ll tell them we’re brothers”. We laughed, I seem to remember, for quite some time. It shan’t be our last laugh, dear boy.