I Muse, Your Muse, We Amuse to Bemuse

There’s a thread over on the Irish Knitters Group on Ravelry at the moment that has me a bit puzzled. It’s eleventy-billion pages long by now so I’ll give you the Executive Summary:

  • An Irish-American related her tale of a knitter on the Aran Islands, who believes the art will die with her generation
  • That Traditional Aran Knitting is an inevitable victim of progress inIreland is discussed as well as…
  • The Virtue in preserving traditions vs knitting being a living thing & people knitting what reflects their tastes and sensibility
  • Cyril Cullen gets a mention & a mini-review of his book “Knot Sure”
  • The infamous myth of the Clann or Family Aran Pattern gets a going-over
  • Digression into the meaning and origin of various family names
  • Aran Knitting is alive and well in Japan! & Gozo!!! & Newfoundland!
  • A  digression into the appropriate yarn for knitting baby clothes thows up the idea of knitting an aran jumper in Noro (… interesting! – making mental note)
  • Gertrude Sampson, Glynis Robins and Lainey Keogh get a mention
  • Alice Starmore’s book “Aran Knitting” is to be re-published in October 2010; various other books on Aran Knitting are also given
  • Someone may, or may not, have tried to deduce something meaningful regarding the decline of Aran Knitting from the projects chosen by Team Ireland knitter to knit in Ravelympics; and later admits that you can’t
  • Someone else would love to learn the secrets of the craft, but hasn’t the time to read the thread!
  • The reduction of Irish culture to Twee-ness is discussed, as well as a detailed de-railment of the thread into what is twee!
  • We learn much about St Patrick and other national saints such as St. David (Wales) and St. George (England & others)
  • Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland Vs by Irish Americans in the US gets well thrashed out.
  • The OP gets accused of dictating what Irish Knitters should knit and what Irish people should value
  • Various foods get a mention, including: Rhubarb, leeks, Mexican flour and corned beef & cabbage pizza
  • What it means to be Irish comes under the microscope

I’ve come away from the thread contemplating two things: a) that there will always be those who want to reject tradition as much as there are those who want to preserve it. Traditions are subject to the same market forces as everything else, these days. If enough people are interested, it will continue.

The other thing I’ve got my head in a knot over is what exactly it means to be Irish. Is my Bit-of-a Give-Away too twee? or is it just a bit of fun? Are we getting a bit up-our-own-arses about how Irish-Americans chose to celebrate the day? Other than the obvious gastronomic and environmental concerns, what exactly is wrong with green beer and dyeing rivers green. Surely, it’s just a bit of craic.

Years ago, through my Dad’s work, we got a rare opportunity to view the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin City Centre from the vantage point of a 1st floor window on Dame Street. For the most part, it was an embarrasing affair (pre-Macnas) and the only parts of it I remember were the group of people pushing supermarket trolleys as part of  the SuperQuinn float (wtf!!!), the fantastic brass bands that had travelled from the US and another group of 50 or so people wearing green jumpers & waving manickly, obviously thrilled to be there. (My assumption was that they were American Tourists and mainly I just thought “whatever ye’re into, folks but my days of walking in a parade ended in my early teens”.)

Anyway, my abiding memory – and my point – comes after the parade was over. A pair of black teenagers were walking down Dame Street, still wearing their Band Uniforms but casually – with the jackets unbuttoned. A man standing behind me – presumeably a work-colleague of my Dad’s commented: “You’d wonder what two lads like that are doing in Ireland on today of all days”. I took him to mean that to be Irish you had to be white and, most likely, Catholic; and St. Patrick’s Day – for this man – was a preserve of this conservative view of what it means to be Irish. No Blacks need apply.

I was sickened and the thought has stayed with me. That Ireland has had a recent influx of a variety of nationalities, cultures and religions is welcomed by me. Part of The Good Friday Agreement stated that every baby born on the island of Ireland was legally an Irish Citizen. What they had in mind were Orange Protestants born in Northern Ireland. What the authorities didn’t expect was boat and plane-loads of very heavily pregnant women arriving from far-flung places, giving birth and claiming residency due to being the parents of Irish-born children; or using Irish Citizenship as a back-door in to the rest of the EC. Naturally, (tongue-in-cheek) the authorities had to hold a referendum to claw-back on the situation.

The way I see it, Ireland is about to embark on yet another adventure in cultural assimilation. The Normans were often considered in History to be “More Irish than the Irish themselves”. In the same way that the US has Irish Americans and African Americans Ireland will have Latvian Irish and Polish Irish and Nigerian Irish. This is not something to be feared. Yes it will change Ireland. So what! We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

At the weekend I visited the Crafty Market off Cork Street in Dublin City Centre and among the things I bought was a knitted & fulled green shamrock, from Hazel Donnelly a.k.a. DubSpinner on Ravelry. It’s kitch and OTT but I bought it thinking I’d put it in with the prize for the Give-Away (despite the fact that by the time I post it St Patrick’s Day will already be well over – it’ll do for next year!). The purple pouch on the left is for my mobile phone.

from Hazel Donnelly a.k.a. DubSpinner at the Crafty Market

Anyway, a second-generation Irish person, Bridgit, has given me a blog-award and here are my answers to the questionaire that goes with it:

1. Where is your cell phone? Generally in it’s new purple pouch and in my back-left bum pocket. DH & I often play the “can you ring my phone so I can find it” game.
2, Your hair? Curly & un-dyed. Still waiting for some grey hairs to show up and help me look my age!
3. Your mother? A golf- and bridge- obsessed super-woman
4. Your father? Looking out for me from Heaven and giving God some advice.
5. Your favourite food? Anything I can cook from scratch in less than 20mins that my kids will eat – I have a few recipes.
6. Your dream last night? Don’t remember.
7. Your favourite drink? Sparkling water, closely followed by wine (I’m talking quantity, not a time-line).
8. Your dream/goal? to retire early and enjoy it
9. What room are you in? I’m in the Study;… with the dagger and Col. Mustard…
10. Your hobby? Knitting and crochet. I plan to get back into sailing this year.
11. Your fear? I can’t bring myself to write it down but it’s related to DH’s father dying only aged 54 & genes etc.
12. Where do you want to be in six years? Still above ground. (stole this answer from Bridgit!)
13. Where were you last night? At home w/ DH & family
14. Something that you aren’t? Afraid of what others think of me.
15. Muffins? Poppy-seed Lemon
16. Wish list item? Set of Interchangeable Tunisian Crochet hooks
17. Where did you grow up? Won’t give exactly location, since Ireland is such a small pool of people but here’s a clue: “it’s a long, long way to…” this place!
18. Last thing you did? Tried to watch a Horizon documentary about Freak Waves
19. What are you wearing? My crocheted cropped-cardigan (haven’t debuted it here or put it up on Rav!)
20. Your TV? Mostly documentaries about ancient history; Antiques Roadshow and Mythbusters also popular.
21. Your pets? 3 dogs
22. Friends? A hand-full of close soul-mates that I trust.
23. Your life? Busy, knitting keeps me sane and relaxed.
24. Your mood? Bemused
25. Missing someone? Lemme check… nope all here, phew!
26, Vehicle? A Mammy-bus
27. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes.
28. Your favourite store? IKEA – it only opened in Ireland last July & the novelty hasn’t worn off yet!
29. Your favourite colour? purple
30. When was the last time you laughed? earlier today, reading posts on Ravelry!
31. Last time you cried? About a month ago: work was really getting me down.
32. Your best friend? My husband.
33. One place that I go to over and over? My home!
34. One person who emails me regularly? Knitting Daily!
35. Favourite place to eat? Wagamama or Yo Sushi in Dublin City Centre

I’m meant to tag six people – and I know exactly who they’re going to be – but waxing lyrical about Irish-ness has meant I’ve run out of time for linky-goodness to other people’s blogs.

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4 Responses to “I Muse, Your Muse, We Amuse to Bemuse”

  1. Sinéad Says:

    Great post, about not only the mad Ravelry thread, but also about the fact that “Irishness” is a constantly evolving thing.
    Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about your giveaway, I’m just brutal at writing anything that rhymes. It is still brewing in my brain.

  2. helen (of troy) Says:

    a curious fact:
    25% of all people (who define themselves as black) in NYC have at least 1 white grand parent or great grand parent –and over 90% of those whites are irish! –so in NYC being black and being irish are not mutually exclusive!

    Being Irish and being Irish-American are two totally different ethnic identifications (my parents were ‘chided’ for not knowing irish songs..(all written (tin pan alley) by mostly jewish song writers–in the 1930’s!) most american don’t know there is a difference!

    The Clancy brothers (who first toured US in late 1950’s–hitting the college circuit–where we first saw them (Fordham University!) popularized (in america) the Aran sweaters–they (the sweaters) became a badge of ‘real irish’–vs irish american. the effect was more profound when they (the clancy’s/tommy makem) became popular stars (TV/main stream)

    Former Mayor Koch–(another new york jew!) always wears a aran sweater on St Patrick’s day–he no longer marches the whole parade.. but he always shows up!

  3. Bridget Says:

    I think there is just as much discussion about who is really Irish as there is about who is really American, or French, or anything really, and no matter what is done, someone is always railing about it one way or another …

    I love #9! I just hope you weren’t holding the candlestick …

    You have 3 dogs?!! How have I missed this?

  4. eimearee Says:

    Reading and absorbing that much info from that thread is quite an achievement. I hadn’t been keeping an eye on it all along, so wasn’t aware that things were getting hot & bothered ’til the mod pleas were posted.
    What defines Irishness- it’s a curious topic, with a lot of grey areas and no definitive answer.
    I have redish hair & freckles when in sun, a name that foreigners have trouble pronouncing and a contrary temperament – is that Irish enough? 😉


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