The advent of Arthur’s Day is upon us again. Now in it’s third year, the celebration of Ireland’s most iconic drink and maker has become quite the festival. Events run from ticketed venues with known acts to “susprise guests” at several pubs, and every venue is currently sold out. Although it will be hard to top Tom Jones crooning in The Brazen Head in 2009, Dublin is preparing for an evening of music, pints and revelry.
Two events prompted me to think a little deeper about Arthur and the black stuff. The first was a very middle of the road article in last Saturday’s Irish Times entitled: “Is Arthur’s Day Good for us?” The answer was not to be had, in the article at least. Diageo was pulled along for the ride, as one would expect, but the article was very much a musing, rather than a meaty philosophical treatise.
Secondly, although it happened first, was an over wine and pizza debate about alcohol and creativity. The discussion started more or less from a statement I made that I both find it easier to write and write more interestingly after a glass or two of wine. I went further to say that it seemed that under the daily pressure of everything else, it had become a requirement. Without help, I would sit and stare without words to use. They would eventually come, but I never felt the happy rollercoaster ride of mind while writing, nor was I ever as happy with the result. My dinner companion, Scruff, argued that this was untrue, that my mind was perfectly capable of doing this itself. I admitted that although I could envision a state of mind where I would not need the crutch of alcoholic relaxation, I could not see that state of mind ever being able to exist again, from my current point of view.
Previously partial to wine and spirit mixes, I only became a drinker of Guinness some five years ago, before which I found it to be vile. I was encouraged to drink an entire pint before deciding, and after that I was sold. The interesting thing is, I was a “fan” of Guinness the brand and the idea, without having liked the drink. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned article does make mention of this, and the fact that Arthur’s Day is aimed at under 25′s, as this age group have usually not yet “acquired” the taste of Guinness, but still respect the brand. I love everything about it, from the duotone colour scheme of the drink itself, to the television advertisements, to the rugged, homey feel of a ping of the black stuff. The history of St. James’ Gate, from the lease to the architecture is fascinating. I’m proud of Guinness, and of Arthur.
So, I wondered, could it be that the beleaguered Irish, with their history of hardship and romance, and poetry and the arts, actually owe their unique reputation to their favourite pastime, the demon drink? Could it be that brillance, suffocated by difficulty can then be rescued by the vice of alcohol? Does it produce something particularly unique? I can only speak myself, and the people I feel to be similar to me. I know that I have had the best, most creative discussions over either Guinness, or wine, or whiskey. These discussions have spanned business, technology, psychology, the fine arts, medicine and mythology. I believe it to be a fact that, for some of us, our wiring is rewired through and by events, resulting in the need for assistance on the path to creativity.
A few points to warn about here:
1. Not everyone needs alcohol to be brilliant.
2. Not everyone is brilliant.
3. I’m not saying that only the Irish are brilliant, have suffered hardship, or are the only drinkers in the world.
4. I’m not including binge drinking and/or drunken criminality in my thoughts.
Does the embracement and enchantment of Arthur’s Day run deeper than a few pints and gigs? I think it does. I think it bolsters and validates the Irish nature. We can be proud of ourselves, no matter who we are or what we do, by raising a pint of Guinness and toasting its’ founder. Is Arthur’s Day good for us? I also think that the answer is yes. It’s good for us because it’s a new festival we can take to heart, and it’s good for the economy as it brings punters bustling in just as winter sets in.
So, to Arthur! As for me, I’m off to have a lovely pint of creamy goodness.