ARCHIVE LIBRARY

IRELAND … À LA LOUISIANE

by Jude Southerland Kessler 

https://www.johnlennonseries.com

“What?!” My mother was clearly taken aback. “Are you sure that’s what she said?” I could see her listening very carefully to the person on the other end of the line. Then, she slid her eyes to me and shook her head. “No, I’m so sorry she told you that,” she apologized. “We don’t plan to take a trip to Ireland. And we’re definitely not moving there.”

Busted! My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Coates, was a traitor. Sigh.

As you can well imagine, I spent the next half-hour (or three days) explaining to my parents that my dream of going to Ireland had just “gotten the better of me,”and that I’d only told “a few” people that we might be moving there. (“A few” … meaning all of my friends, my dance teacher, my Sunday school teacher, and well … anyone who would listen.) My parents were not impressed with my creative ingenuity.

Now, six decades years later, I’m still talking about going to Ireland, but you guessed it … I haven’t quite made it to the Emerald Isle. Not yet.

But you’d never know it! I’ve decorated my home to replicate an Irish cottage, complete with diamond paned windows, Irish lace curtains, stained glass windows and an antique, wooden Irish cart at the front door. So far, that’s as close to the Cliffs of Mohr as I’ve come. But with St. Paddy’s Day rapidly upon us, I’m determined to make 2021 the year that I “make the trek” real.

You blink and say, “Uhmm … you have heard about the worldwide pandemic, haven’t you?”

To which I respond, “Yes, indeed, I have … and if Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, then, let’s bring the mountain to Mohammed!”

And if you, too, love Ireland and dream of traveling there (or if you just want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in high-style without having to vacate Louisiana), here are some brilliant ways to fill March with all things Irish, à la Louisiane!

1. Attend the annual St. Patrick’s Day Auction at Enoch’s Irish Pub and Cafe in Monroe, LA, located at 507 Louisville Avenue. This Irish pub is “the real deal.” It’s identical to the wonderful Irish pubs I visited in Liverpool, England, a city that (due to its heavily Irish dominated population) is fondly dubbed “The Capital of Ireland.” And Enoch’s auction is a rollicking good time full of patrons decked out in St. Paddy’s T-shirts, blinking shamrock lights, kilts, and green beads…and anything else that spells “good time had by all.” The items auctioned on St. Patrick’s Day are donated by Middleton’s (one $200 bottle of Irish whiskey), Guinness, and tons of Louisiana small businesses. Why? So that one hundred per cent of theproceeds can go to St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity that helps people pay for their prescription medicines and supplies articles of clothing to those in need. Show you care by wearing your mask and coming out to Enoch’s on St. Paddy’s Day, and you’ll help yourself to a wonderful evening as well! (Enoch’s is at limited capacity due to CoVid…so first come, first served.)

2. Go on a Pilgrimage to Rock Chapel, hidden in the woods in Carmel, Louisiana, near Mansfield. This sequestered jewel is rated as “one of the most beautiful places in Louisiana,” and it’s a great way to refresh your spirit, share the emerald beauty of the woods, and fulfill your sense of adventure. Before you visit this lovely, stone church built in 1891 by Carmelite Monks, you will first have to stop by the DeSoto Parish Tourist Bureau for instructions…and to get the key to the gate. NOTE: You will have to maneuver on winding, country roads to reach your destination…so be prepared! For more information, go to Visit Rock Chapel Outside of Mansfield, LA for a Unique Louisiana Chapel (onlyinyourstate.com).

3. Watch the classic movie, Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts. This is the story of “The Big Fella,” Ireland’s Michael Collins, who in the 20 th Century worked tirelessly for Irish independence from England. It’s a love story, a riveting edge-of-the-seater, and a poignant slice of history. Available on internet movie services.

4. Ask your Audio Virtual Assistant to play Irish music for you. She has several different stations you might enjoy: Traditional Irish Folk, Relaxing Irish Music, Irish Instrumentals, and many others. She canalso play albums by talented Irish rock artists such as U2, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, and Clannad. You won’t be disappointed! (Don’t miss “Paddy O’Reilly” by the Corrs! Great song!)

5. For a mystical experience (no matter what faith you practice), enjoy the Celtic music of Enya (whose real name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin) and Loreena McKennitt, (who is Canadian but is a master of the Celtic sound). When I bought my first Enya CD back in the 90’s, I couldn’t stopplaying it over and over. In 2021, we may not be able to travel to Ireland physically, but I promise you, these two artists will take you there.

6. Make your own Irish Soda Bread. Forget the low-fat diet and use real butter…use currants instead of raisins. And prepare to be utterly spoiled! The recipe isn’t difficult, but the results are amazing! Enjoy with a cup of Irish Breakfast Tea.

7. Treat yourself to the funny, edgy, touching film, “The Commitments” about one musician’s dream and the birth of a unique Irish band. You’ll laugh. You’ll sigh. You won’t forget this one. (Other excellent but more serious Irish films include “Angela’s Ashes,” “Brooklyn,” “In the Name of the Father,” and “TheWind that Shakes the Barley.”)

8. Take a full weekend and watch The Beatles Anthology, four two hour films that tell the complete story of The Beatles, from beginning to end. Three of the four Beatles were (are) Irish: James Paul McCartney (who wrote the song “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”), George Harrison (who still has family living in Ireland), and John Lennon (whose family name originally was O’Leannian or O’Lennan and who wrote the songs “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Luck of the Irish”). The Beatles were heavily influenced by the Irish folk songs of Liverpool, and they boldly spoke out for Irish independence in the 1970s. The Anthology introduces you to the Fab Four via live footage and interviews with each one of the lads and their entourage. If you aren’t a fan, you will be.

9. Snuggle into a comfy chair with “a cuppa” and read at least one of these bittersweet but remarkable books about the fight for Irish independence: Leon Uris’s Trinity, and the Irish trilogy by Thomas Flanagan (including The Year of the FrenchTenants of Time, and The End of the Hunt). And, above all, if you do nothing else on this list, read a book by the beloved Maeve Binchy. Binchy wrotenumerous (hilarious, tender, sad, and hopeful) novels and collections of short stories about modern-day Irish families … books that will transport you to Ireland in an intimate way that no tourist visit could ever do. Her book, Circle of Friends, was made into a popular film, but all of her books are absolutely magnificent! For more information, go to: maevebinchy.com

What to do now? Well, don your Irish t-shirts, sweaters, shamrock necklaces and scarves, and kick off a month-long celebration that’s “guaranteed to make you smile.” Didn’t some famous band promise to do just that? Hmmmm … they must have been Irish! Slainte!

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