I watched the lifeless, dark brown liquid slurp into the glass and tried not to think “Jeyes Fluid”.
The glass was set onto a disc on which a small amount of water had been poured. A button was pressed and it was like the advert, all swirling, foaming and Guinnessy.
“It’s an electric current which activates the beer,” said the bartender, helpfully. “Oh, terrific,” thought the pig farmer, on a rare day out in Kirkwall.
How better, one may ask, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than by drinking electrically activated Guinness and watching the English crawl and scratch their way into the quarter-finals of the cricket World Cup?
A trip to Dublin or New York? Well maybe. I used to do the full Oirish, funny leprechaun hat thing, but these days I prefer to spend St Pat’s on my own, a pint or two in my hand, thinking my own thoughts.
Of course I’ll think about my 83-year-old Dublin-born mum, currently driving back to Devon after visiting her grandson (my lad Will) in Edinburgh. I’ll think about my dad, Nairobi-born, Coleraine-educated, who took a deliberate decision to escape the sectarian divides of Ulster to go first to Trinity College, Dublin, and then to England.
I think about all those wonderful holidays I spent at 303 Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin 6. My mum was drafted in to look after my invalid granny, while my grandad* whisked me off to anywhere interesting on the CIE bus network (Phoenix Park Zoo and Howth Head were my favourites).
And I’ll be reflecting on the nature of nationality and the reason a man born in the heart of East Anglia’s fens has always felt as if he never belonged there, or even in England at all.
I have friends who insist that all that matters in terms of nationality is where you were born. That’s clearly nonsense. We are the product of the people around us, not of our postcode and, when I was young, the dominant influence was Irish.
Perhaps blood counts, perhaps it doesn’t. My mother has been delving into our family’s history and it appears that, if you go back to my great grandparents the score is Ireland 3, England 3, Scotland 2 (that includes one Orcadian**).
That certainly makes things a lot easier come Six Nations time.
The bottom line is that, come 5pm on Saturday, the hairs on the back of my neck will stand up as the lads in green shirts run out on to the field at Lansdowne Road and every piece of my being will be aching for Ireland to win or at the very least avoid a real thumping by a team I’ve always felt were “them”.
Some things you just can’t explain.
Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all, may you never be bitten by a snake.
* Being an avid watcher of Dr Who even as a wee boy, I spent a couple of years insisting on calling my grandad “grandfather”.
** Orkney was transferred from Norway to Scotland in the 1490s. The locals are still struggling to come to terms with the idea.,