OMG – the Italians are coming!


I heard the other day of an elderly man who gets the cleaners in every so often. In the hour before they arrive, he exhausts himself trotting from room to room….yep, you guessed it. Cleaning. I mean, what would the cleaners think if the place was a mess?

This concern over what outsiders might think runs deep in our psyche.  I remember the Stations: the time when the priest would celebrate Mass in someone’s house. For weeks before, the people would be tidying and fixing, sometimes adding a fresh coat of whitewash to the building. Godliness and cleanliness, the unspoken assumption said,  marched hand-in-hand.

Now that the Italians are coming (in the Giro d’Italia, Viriginia – it’s a race men do on bicycles), there’s a frenzy of getting ready. The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has written to all parties asking them to take down their election posters during the period of the race (the May elections are just after the race). The Alliance Party’s Anna Lo urges that  “we take the ban one step further and get rid of Union and paramilitary flags as well as sectarian murals during the Giro d’Italia. We should present a positive image of Northern Ireland for viewers watching the race on television, not images of the past.”

And of course you’re familiar with the draping of fake store-front canvas sheets, supposedly fooling half-blind passers-by  into thinking a town or village isn’t  full of empty shops and broken-down buildings but happy prosperous businesses.

This is what-would-the-visitors-think gone mad. It’s not new –  Gay Byrne used to give out about pavement chewing-gum spots on the grounds that tourists wouldn’t like it.  Personally, I think the people who live here are more important than tourists. Yes, we should clean up the environment. Yes, we could do without flags  on every lamp-post. But not because the visitors would be unimpressed; because we are unimpressed. What sort of thinking is it that wakens to squalor and stupidity only when visitors are coming through? If we set our standards at a decent level to begin with, we wouldn’t need to worry about cleaning the house before the visitors arrive.


4 Responses to OMG – the Italians are coming!

  1. paddykool February 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Jude: Some , I suppose ,really do live on another planet of denial. I’m sure you’ve heard the hoary old story about the Queen only ever smelling fresh paint or the fragrance of flowers everywhere she goes. She’ll never be assaulted by anything remotely like the stink of the grimy truth as her subjects bend their collective knees.It’s something built into the human genome. Mostly on the female line, probably
    . Keeping the cave tidy and all that.

    I dare say most males would never dream of changing the decor at home as many times as their female partners crave that novelty.My wife cleans the windows before the window cleaner comes and also chases mysterious dust that I never see. If I should deign to press that vacuum cleaner button, she’ll chase up my work with great criticism, so I mostly stick to the cooking chores with a bit of gardening on the side.

    I think Anna Lo is a fine human being, with her heart in the right place, but in this Alice in Wonderland world of Wee Norn Ireland, she is not about to garner any support for her genteel tidying up of our past .

    The poor woman was on the airwaves this morning.She’s had to contend with all sorts of bigoted nonsense from the moronic knuckle-draggers in the past, but even cheap and cheerful Sammy, one of our” legitimate politicians” , …can only give her guarded support…as long as she doesn’t mention getting rid of flags or para-military murals.

    Instead of seeing the bigger picture, there he is defending the indefensible.Anyone with a brain knows we are a long way from “normal” and that far from being a wonderful tourist attraction, our attachment to poorly painted heraldic rivalry on gable walls, garishly painted kerb stones and the assorted tattered ribbons of cheaply made flags and wind-wracked bunting….[ probably originating in some Chinese or Indian sweatshop, Anna],… is in the end ,, nothing more than garish tat that does nothing for our various cultures, never mind our critical faculties or self-image.All it says is “Cheapo Productions Limited” and all it attracts are the same head-wagging rubberneckers who will gawp at the quaint customs of these poor natives , much as the rest of us might visit a zoo.

    • giordanobruno February 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      I see Anna Lo has received racial abuse online because of her suggestion. Ugly depressing behaviour.
      She always seems like a sensible human being to me and good luck to her with this effort.
      Sadly not much hope of anyone listening to her though.
      And as Jude says it rather misses the point that we can be doing without all the flags the rest of the time too.

      • paddykool February 20, 2014 at 10:04 am #

        Gio :
        I personally think that the attacks on Anna are at base, simply racist rants from very insular frightened individuals who would be quite happy insulting any immigrant or person beyond the tight little circle of their knowledge. Anna has probably lived here twenty years longer than any of these facebook ranters ..

        .She’s lived here since the early 1970’s after all and I would imagine that most of her tormentors are a lot younger than her. I may be wrong, of course.They may be old grizzled refuseniks who simply cannot understand that the population is now largely a cosmopolitan ,immigrant one. .

        They now have the opportunity to attach this hatred and focus it on a person they have recently been taught to hate because of her part’s association with the 2flag” vote at Belfast City Hall. She now has the audacity to try and turn their society into something resembling normality.She has the utopian hope that if all these symbols of past conflicts are removed from the streets they walk on daily, that maybe they’ll be forced to think for themselves and not be influenced by the streets’ violent past.
        Behind it all. though there is still a racist taint. it’s as though some of the children of northern Ireland are unaware how “normal” life actually works in the rest of Ireland and the UK.
        Politicians here are not helping those young people while they continue to support the more violent images and imagery which is corrupting another generation as they waffle.

        Normal societies do not have murals depicting violence painted on the sides of their homes. Neither do they have the need to paint their footpaths and dress up their lamp posts like some cheap rickety carnival that passed through and refused to leave….

  2. Virginia February 20, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    Can I reprint this for use with my middle school students? It would be a good starting point for an essay on the external appearances. (They are ever so concerned with how their peers view them.)