Friday, 25 March 2011

May Visitations. March Demises.

Swallows come to Ireland in May, for their own good reasons, all related to their survival. They come for food and the continuance of the line. They swoop and circle, gobble insects on the wing, nest, procreate and depart. Ireland, at least the Republic part of the island, expects two more May visitations this year. The Queen of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will swoop and circle, be well fêted, stay overnight, shore up the security of her descendants and then depart. The President of The United States of America will also visit in May. He may make it to Northern Ireland, though the border could prove an obstacle. The President will also swoop and circle, enjoy good food and drink – there will be the obligatory photograph of The President resting his elbow on a bar counter, inches away from a well-settled pint of stout – stay overnight (perhaps), ensure his own continuance in office by securing good pre-election coverage in print and broadcast media, then depart. This May visitation will confirm that The President is in fact white, with Christo-European origins.
The border does not prove an obstacle to the swallows who will happily swoop and circle, gobble, nest and procreate all across the island. And, if the countryside is not entirely destroyed, they will come back next year, because they have no interest in the post-colonial dimensions of the visit of The Queen or the economic imperatives of the visit of The President. They are open about their self-interest and necessity, yet find little of worth in degrading and valueless phrases such as 'Ireland is open for business' and 'Ireland Inc..' The swallows experience Ireland, North and South, as domestic, not commercial; home, not call centre or shop; family, not workforce or cheap labour market; current, not historical; egalitarian, not hierarchical; welcoming, not fawning: a great place to spend a summer.
With May visitations ahead, March demises occur. Snowdrops return below ground, taking their whiteness and their promise with them, their shining innocence lost to us for another year. An uneven cast of weather tempts us with thoughts of heat, light, the swallows' arrival and the final days of Winter. 
A bright star of Hollywood dims, fades and goes out when Elizabeth Taylor, actress and very-public figure, dies. In the film version of Edward Albee's wonderful 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?' she leans into her husband, played by real-life husband, Richard Burton, as they coruscate around each other in a drunken row and whispers to him  'Getting angry, baby, huh?'
The Minister for Health in Belfast (54 degrees North, 5 degrees West), in a final act before the Northern Ireland Executive winds up for an election, handbrakes very-advanced plans for a radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry (54 degrees North, 17 degrees West). Altnagelvin is an anglicisation of Alt na Gealbhán, the ravine of the sparrows. Swallows will no doubt swoop and circle there in May, but if the Minister's decision signals another March demise, they won't see the radiotherapy unit and seriously ill cancer patients from the north-west of Ireland will continue their 200km plus round trips for treatment in Belfast and Dublin (53 degrees North, 6 degrees West).
Cue campaigns, rallies and protests.
'Getting angry, baby, huh?' 

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