6 Nations 2014 – where were you?

BOD_6nations2014_crop

Face of BOD (Brian O’Driscoll) on RTE at end of Ireland’s 2014 6 nations victory

I was one of the crowd in a packed Irish pub, The Spotted Dog, in Digbeth, Birmingham today, when Ireland beat France by 2 points to win the 2014 6 nations. I freely admit that I don’t know all the rules in rugby, and I’m happy to have them explained to me by my Welsh husband who played rugby while at school and at university.

What I do have are feelings about being Irish in Britain, and on St Patrick’s weekend, and the day before the Birmingham St Patrick’s Day Parade (some claim it’s the world’s 3rd largest St Patrick’s Day Parade after New York and Dublin), the victory was all the sweeter for the timing. My happiness was shared by everyone in the pub – old and young, women and men, Irish of all generations and none. I roared, clapped and cheered until I was hoarse with every Irish try, penalty and scrum. I groaned when France scored, especially when the score changed from 13-22 to 18-22 and then 20-22. My heart was in my mouth for the last 4 minutes – games we thought we won previously have been lost in the dying minutes.

But ‘we’ persevered, (you probably know that everyone wearing any kind of green, watching the game in any Irish pub around the world, is ready for the call, should the manager make it ), and victory was, is, ours, beating not only France, but also England, Wales (sorry, hubby), Scotland and Italy.

We will stride out tomorrow on our Parade in Birmingham, full of the usual joyfulness that comes of having the streets of Digbeth closed for our annual party, joined by our friends and neighbours from across Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond. The difference this year will be that the joyfulness will have an extra element of hard-won happiness, one that comes from having lived and died with each movement on the rugby field, and emerging triumphant, for another year, on this weekend of all weekends.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all.

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Celebrating Nollaig na MBan 2014

Nollaig na mBan

Suzzanne, Siobhan, Kath, Caroline, Noreen, Irene, Ann, Pauline, Maureen, Geraldine and I got together tonight in The White Swan in Digbeth, Birmingham to celebrate the annual Irishwomen’s celebration, Nollaig na mBan, also known as Little Christmas. We told each other a bit about ourselves, mentioned our various connections to Ireland, talked a little about our families and friends, had a few sandwiches and sausage rolls and then we sang songs – The Fields of Athenry, Slievenamon, The Mountains of Mourne, The Wild Rover, I’ll Tell Me Ma, The Galway Shawl, The Connemara Cradle Song, Hear My Song and an old favourite, Make me an island (Joe Dolan). Suzzanne provided some accompaniment, improvising some drumbeats with a few teaspoons and Maureen also gave us a spoons demo, this time with 2 dessert spoons.

I’ve been friends with Caroline and Kath for years, and Pauline and I have become friends more recently, but all the other women were new faces to me and each other. I’d only met Noreen before on Twitter, and I have recently befriended Siobhan that way, so it could have been an awkward evening. It wasn’t. It’s amazing what can happen from a bit of friendliness and some shared cultural background. Irene, Ann and Geraldine had heard about the event on the Bob Brolly show on BBCWM yesterday, and they came along on the strength of that and a small mention in the Evening Mail.

I think it’s true to say that a great night was had by all, and the spot prizes were won (more ‘awarded’) to Noreen who had travelled the farthest to get to the event, and Maureen who had encouraged us to start the singing.

We’ve agreed to get together again for St Brigid’s Day on Sat Feb 1st – we’re going to Tamworth to shop at the Dunnes Stores there – that’ll be another blog post!