Double Vision with Charlie Adley
All these years I’ve written ‘you’, and now I don’t know what to do. It was all so safe and comfy, seeing ‘you’ through my English eyes, sometimes in awe, occasionally mocking with affection, yet always different; always other. This citizenship malarkey is confusing. I’m still the same bloke I was two weeks ago, but now I’m Irish too.
Does that mean I have to change the pronoun? Do I now have to write ‘we’ instead of ‘you’? I haven’t suddenly become one of you, any more than I’ve stopped being a London-born Englishman.
My late father’s face comes to mind as I ponder this new quandary. After a bruising day at school at the age of ten, I turned to him.
“What are we, Dad?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, some of the boys at school were saying I’m not English, ‘cos I’m Jewish, so I don’t belong here.”
“Ah, well, here’s what you are. You’re English, Yiddish and rubbish, and never forget it!”
As he said the word rubbish he twinkled his eye at me, so that I knew he was being ironic; that we were, in fact, very far from rubbish.
“English, Yiddish and rubbish? Is that what I tell them?”
“No! Not like that. Say it with pride and they’ll leave you alone.”
Hey Dad! There’s a new one on that list. Now I’m English, Irish, Yiddish and rubbish.
All in all quite a cultural cocktail.
That suits me well. I’m happy being an identity mongrel. I’m proud to be English, Irish and Jewish. More than mere labels, each-of those identities means a lot to me, yet none wholly defines me; nor would I want it to.
As my freshly-conferred Irishness gently assimilates into my soul, I realise that my confusion over pronouns (us, we, you and them) was slightly crass and premature.
Nothing needs to change.
To read Charlie’s column in full, please see this week’s Galway City Tribune.