EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Same as it ever was in the western world

SANTA Ponca, appropriately enough as it turns out, would be a suitable name for a western.

It was peaceful down by the harbour; a beautiful sunset, the lapping of waves, a drink in a quiet bar. Not like a scene from a cowboy movie.

Further up though, there was mayhem. Like a scene... you get the picture.

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There was singing, dancing, a man with a guitar rattling out Irish rebel songs, people pretending to don balaclavas and the pub was packed. There was clearly a market for this.

In a restaurant down the hill six posh English women had stood, raised a glass and sang God Save The King. It was a couple of days after the Queen had died and it wouldn’t have gone down well in Kelly’s Bar.

It felt as if half of Glasgow had emptied itself in there and old IRA songs, some with additional new lyrics which would suggest the performer and those joining in would not be attempting a rescue should a hunting accident befall old Charlie boy, were being belted out with some gusto.

The songs tackled various subjects ranging from the footballing attributes of Celtic — and lack of regarding Rangers — to getting the soldiers out of Ireland; all performed with passion to an appreciative crowd who added some gun-toting mimes just to liven it up and add fuel to my western themed column.

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Some Americans were in there exploring their ancestry and giving off the same confused vibe as modelled by various recent presidents and no doubt most who had ventured into Belfast to find some distant relatives in the 1970s — “Hey, could you kindly point me in the direction of those rolling green hills and the funny leprechaun creature playing the old tin whistle please sir?” Bang!

Something about the split of the town bothered me though and it’s the same everywhere.

A couple from the north-east, who had a place over the bay around the marina, said: “Oh, you’re staying on the Scottish side with all the Irish bars.”

We were. The beer and food was cheap, the holidaymakers dressed in football tops and inappropriate swimwear for people their size. You didn’t need to see it but you had no choice.

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On the other side there were expensive villas peering over the yacht-filled water, a nice restaurant populated by men combining chinos and polo shirts and talking about money. They genuinely did have something to sing about, but they weren’t, because you don’t when you’re that wealthy. You show it, but don’t shout about it.

Back on the other side, the “Irish side”, they were sticking together, singing the same old songs and it struck me that some things never change.

Colonialism may be — in many ways, though not all — a thing of the past, but is it really?

There are Irish — and many other nationalities and cultures — enclaves in cities all over the world. They mostly originated from necessity but expanded as time passed and the people started businesses which attracted relatives and friends to the same areas.

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Those here in Santa Ponca seemed happy in their place, which was largely mapped out and dictated by a desire for drink, music and to be among others with similar backgrounds and tastes, but also by their economic situation, which is the way the world has been since ancient times and across Europe for six centuries or more — and the current economy situation will only extend that.

As always, people turn their backs and party — same as it ever was — and as I burst through those saloon bar doors I decide I may as well, for the time being, join them as the sun sets on life as we know it.

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