Good Friday…The Drinks Are Not On Me

First of all a short statement. I dont drink alcohol and never have. My parents were lifelong pioneers and the only jewelry that my father left me was his pioneer pin. I tend to wear it on special family occasions.
There is an irony. My parents met in a pub. My father was a barman in the Grosvenor Road area and he placed an orange juice at my mothers left hand…to see if she was married or engaged. And the rest…as they say …is History.
My father did not particuarly like working in a pub. He always said that you met the “best people and the worst people” in pubs.
My mother on the other hand was very anti-drink. A pioneer pin was a sign that the young man courting a much loved neice was a good sign. Family members who were drinkers were “black sheep”.
My fathers family were non-drinkers. Back in my childhood, it was normal not to drink. And certainly among young people, especially girls, Drink was unacceptable.
In the 1960s, my father’s health declined and the only job that he could get was working in a sleaxy off-licence in a back street in West Belfast. The owner had a chain of sleazy off-licences and his employees were all former barmen who were in ill health. He had a reputation of being a good charitable Catholic businessman but of course he paid his employees a pittance….as a lot of good charitable Catholic business men were.
One of my fathers drink crazed customers hit him with a hammer and stole some cash and thereafter I (about 10 years old at the time) stayed with him after school until he closed up. My mother/younger sister did the same. He was never alone.
My father had a heart attack in 1965. The good Catholic businessman came to visit him, went upstairs and came down after a few minutes and nodded a platitude to my mother.
We wwent upstairs…my father was crying. He had been given two five pound notes and…the sack.
Of course my father never worked again. Sick Benefit the rest of his life. But he did live long enough to collect three years of Retirement Pension and (as he put it) “look every other man in the face”
My father was a forgiving man. When the good Cathoilic businessman died, he said a prayer for him. But my mother did not join in.

So in 2016, I dont know much about licensing laws (I have never had any need to know)but I know a lot more than I want to about the good Catholic businessmen. And a heck of a lot of them own pubs. Of course nowadays nobody is so common as to “own a pub” …we now call all this the Hospitality Industry.

Yet of all our pressing problems in Norn Iron, I am expected to believe that the biggest problem is “our antiquated licencing laws”. There are simply not enough hours in the day for people in the hospitality industry. Of course “hospitality” is all about fine wines at dinner…it is not about bottles of Bucky or anything so crude.
I dont know what the licensing hours are…but whether late in Belfast or any other town, I have not seen evidence that there are not enough hours in the day for people to get blitzed, pissed, drunk etc….in fact the evidence suggests that people drink rather more than they did in my day.
Not to be overly moralistic but a spokesman for the Hospitality Industry really needs to come on TV and say “to be brutally frank, we are in the business of selling drink and we want more time to do it”.

The pubs in Norn Ireland close for a few hours on Good Friday. And according to Social Media bemused tourists cant buy a drink. I have little sympathy for them. Tourism depends on “difference” and Good Friday is part of what makes Ireland “different”. A few hours once a year seems like no big deal. It is hardly as if we are asking tourists to sign the pledge or sign up to Ramadan.

It is no coincidence that the majority of pubs (and bookmakers) in Norn Iron are Catholic owned. It was a trade that respectable Protestants did not want to touch…and even today in Protestant dominated towns, the pubs (and bookies) will be disproportionately Catholic….good charitable men like the man who paid off my father with two five pound notes in 1965.

I could go all Biblical and say that doing without a drink for a few hours on Good Friday is no big deal. Watching just one hour …or three…with Jesus ….would cut no ice in 2016.

Tourists, Drinkers and the sharp suited spokespersons have their Rights. Yes of course….but in my experience Rights are only obtainable when they become economically viable.

Thus local business leaders who are so anxious to promote the “rights” of European workers to freedom of movement are the same people who tell us that “the right” of a worker to a Living Wage cannot be afforded.

RIghts…to Education, to Child Care, to Contraception….all based on Economics.

So I expect that the advocates for “modern” licensing laws are influenced by ….Cash. No harm in that of course. Just lets have some Honesty.

Yet it surprises me a little that the Hospitality Industry is targetting a fairly harmless (Christian) tradition. But it is a soft target….and I do not want to sound like a religious nutter on Fux News. There is no “War on Christianity” either in USA or in Ireland, north or south. I do not mind if you send me a Mass Card or a Sympathy Card. I will appreciate you shaking my hand and being sorry for my loss. I will attend any service and dont mind who attends mine. I will be happy for you to be with your spouse of any sexuality. I will respect your choice of wording “husband”, “wife”,”partner”, “boyfriend” , “girlfriend”. And all I ask is that you respect mine.

I will wish you “Happy Holidays”, “a Happy Christmas”, “Happy Chanukah”, “Happy Yule”.

If you invite me to a BarMitzvah”, “Holy Communion”, wedding in any church, registry office or forest glade, I will go.

Yet it seems to me it would be honest but counter-productive for the Hospitality Industry to simply say “we want to make more money”. Simply asking for longer opening hours would be a giveaway….so the rhetoric is about “modernising” the laws. So inevitably the Good Friday opening hours rooted in religious tradition seem a better way of putting it.

There is a myth that religious people are intolerant. Some are. Some are not. And there is a myth that athiests are tolerant. Some are. Some are not.

Certainly last years Referendum on Equal Marriage would not have been won if every Christian in the Republic of Ireland had voted NO.

If you prefer to think that Christians are intolerant, then that would be unfair to the son of a friends of mine who is working in a Presbyterian mission field in Malawi. And it would be unfair on the woman from St Vincent de Paul, fundraising for refugees in Greece.

So it seems that maybe a little tolerance can be shown to Christians. Those who oppose the “God Slot” Sunday programmes like “Songs of Praise” being on a public broadcaster like the BBC should know that it is right to cater to all minority tastes.

And those who get worked up about the RTE News being shown at 6.01pm because of the Catholic Angelus Bells chiming should realise that there is no praying….just people young and old and multi racial responding to the chimes with a moments silent reflection. It doesnt harm anyone.

A Christian might reasonably say that Good Friday is about a man who was born, lived, was crucified and lived beyond it. And reasonably enough an athiest might find that all to be nonsense.

But…heres the thing. I know a man who was born, was crucified during his life. And lives beyond his death. And probably so do you.

It may or may not be Jesus. But it does no harm to anyone to make space for that reflection once a year.

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1 Response to Good Friday…The Drinks Are Not On Me

  1. Political Tourist says:


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