You can fight it and be silently furious at all the stereotypical nonsense. You're lucky if you can find a born-there Irish person to sympathise and calm you down. They, like you, know the reality of how St Patrick's Day used to be in Ireland. People standing in the cold watching others go by on the backs of lorries and the odd group of goose-pimply Irish dancers. Or you can just smile and eat the cupcake with the green frosting which someone has thoughtfully made for the office tea break.
After a few years, you melt a little and organise a céilí and ice the cake yourself and maybe even venture into further baking. "Oh gee, I'd love some of that real Irish soda bread," someone exclaimed and, challenged like never before, I resolved to try and make it. Martin Miller, a town planner from San Jose, came up with a recipe from a book. I make it still. It calls for a bit of coriander or cardamom, but what odds?
Those coming would work hard to dig up some sign of a connection with Ireland.
One worked for an Irish construction firm in Philadelphia one year and brought his baseball cap with "Kelly" written on it. And, on one memorable occasion, a young man proudly brought in a plaque, wrapped up – a family heirloom from his grandfather. We stood around in hushed silence as he unwrapped it. The Red Hand of Ulster. It provided, shall we say, an opportunity for growth!
In Israel, where I lived, there was much interest in anything Irish and an Irish film would stay weeks at the cinemas. The Commitments packed 'em in for weeks and In the Name of the Father was a favourite. Jackie, a friend from England often came with me. We strayed off of a busy evening, without much thinking on my part, to see Michael Collins. "Oh Jesus!" said I, "I don't think I can watch this," when the moment of James Connolly's demise drew near. Child as I was of the 1966 Easter Commemorations, Lilly Connolly's "But your beautiful life, Jim, your beautiful life," can still destroy me.
"What are you talking about," snapped Jackie. "They are not going to shoot him, he's an invalid". Another growth moment. And yet another came on the morning after the Brighton bombing when I was stuck on a trip to the airport with five others, all British, all unable to say what they wanted to say. Maybe I should say that they were stuck with me?
My daughter was at an American International School near Tel Aviv and it was their lovely practice to have each graduating student honoured in their own language by a younger student of the same nationality. And so my daughter got to say farewell and wave the flag for the son of the then-Irish Ambassador to Israel, Brendan Scannell. Each night for a few weeks, her nightly prayers were followed by practice of the few sentences in Irish and she did us proud on the day.
No sooner had that formal part of the occasion ended and we were wandering around the sports field finding refreshments and greeting friends than I saw the Ambassador and his wife swoop on my daughter, praising her and asking "And where did you learn that lovely Munster Irish?". Mrs Scannell contributed some Irish recipes to the international recipe book which the school published. She must have been left wondering about the recipe we put in, the one with the coriander in the soda bread.
And now we are home for St. Patrick's Day. Lidl will be advertising the cheaper booze. Last year, the air was blue with accounts of teenagers and young people who, drunk out of their minds, were having sex in public following the Dublin parade. I might go out on Saturday evening to see the fireworks in Dublin. It's a time of fasting in the religion I belong to and although we have chanced our arm over the years in suggesting it, we never did succeed in getting a dispensation for St Patrick's Day!
The weird thing is that I will probably miss the dancing leprechaun emails when I commence work on the Saint's day and miss seeing people dressed in green things dragged out of the back of their wardrobes. I miss trying to remember the difference between the Siege of Ennis and the Walls of Limerick and arguing about whether, if you want to be truly orthodox and not some latter day reformer, you will or you won't put carrots in the Irish stew. These days, I'm still Irish. But not so proud.