Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SORCHA and Siobhán and the others are going drinking on Paddy’s Day,” she says, squinting up from her phone.

Reader, I tell you, if I hadn’t been sitting on the sofa, my knees would have gone from under me. I was so stunned to hear this pronouncement from my sweet, gorgeous, innocent 15-year-old daughter last week that I couldn’t react.

I was shocked because, as far as I knew, none of my young one’s friends were drinking alcohol yet. Sure, they sashay off to discos held in draughty local halls with skirts up to the knickers but those events better supervised than a Swedish House Mafia gig. One whiff of drink off their young breaths and they’d be carted off the premises and into a waiting squad car.

Recovering from the initial blow, I managed to nonchalantly ask, “Good lord, dear, since when did Sorcha and Siobhán drink?”

“Oh, they don’t, not really. Sometimes they’re allowed a little taste at family parties and the like but, look, we’re nearly at the end of junior cert and it’s Paddy’s Day. It’s high time we all got a move on in the drinking scene,” she replied, looking me square in the eye, throwing down the gauntlet.

“YOU WHAT?? YOU MUST BE F**KING DREAMING! YOU’RE NOT GOING DRINKING WITH THE OTHER CHILDREN ON OUR ESTEEMED NATIONAL HOLIDAY!” I screamed in my head.

Out loud, I bombarded her with questions, in as measured a tone as I could manage.

“A move on in the drinking scene, is it? Do you know it’s illegal at your age? Where are you going to get drink? And if you do somehow procure alcohol, where, pray tell, are you going to drink it?” looking straight back at her.

“We haven’t really worked that out yet but Sorcha’s cousin says gatting by the river is great craic,” she said, just to rile me even further.

(Gatting is, according to the Urban Dictionary on the internet, “an Irish word that means drinking alcohol. It’s the general pastime of most teenagers in Ireland.” Well, that’s news to me, anyway.)

Like everything else, St Patrick’s Day has changed since I was a child and my granny used to pin fresh sprigs of shamrock on our lapels before we all headed out for eleven o’clock Mass. Now, it’s a day when otherwise sober-minded people lose the run of themselves. The amateurs come out to play and it all gets very, very messy.

They head off to the parade with their rugrats in tow, and immediately afterwards, pour into the pubs at approximately 1.30 in the afternoon. I resent them clogging up my local pub with their mewling kids, their crisp packets and quarter bottles of red wine. By the time they decant themselves out of the pub in the early evening, the place is a mess.

And it’s not only the grown-ups and their small children who are at it either, because, in our town at least, Paddy’s Day has become a day of imbibing alcohol for the third year students. They’ve gotten their mock exams behind them and have a little leeway before the real thing begins in June. And with one pissy mock exam over, they obviously feel mature enough to go boozing. Indeed, it’s became a rite of passage for some of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not prissy about drink. I come from a long line of people who love alcohol and I’m not about to break that family tradition. My family and I drink when we’re happy. We drink when we’re sad. We drink when we’re on holidays. We drink when we’re at home. We drink. All. The. Time.

So, is my darling daughter about to continue this family tradition at the age of 15? Not on my watch, she isn’t.

So, dear reader, as you peruse this column on Tuesday 17 March, my young one and I will be far, far away from the town that we call home. Miles and miles away from where the young ones are gatting by the river.

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