I read about the “Kick a ginger day” and thought it’s a good job this didn’t happen over here. Otherwise there would be a lot of bruised kids going around. With approximately 10% of the Irish population having red hair it wouldn’t take long before some gombeen child kicked another because they saw it on Bebo/Facebook/The TG4 version of South Park.
The great thing about the prevalence of Irish red hair and accompanying freckles is that no matter where you go in the world, it’s not hard to spot someone Irish. I remember a trip to Baltimore fadó fadó. It was around the time David Simon wrote his book “Homicide, a year on the killing streets”. It’s the book on which The TV series ‘The Wire’ is based. The cover of the book has this quote:
“The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed or bludgeoned to death.”
and having read 3/4 of it, I now know that Baltimore was a pretty dangerous city. I knew nothing about this reputation at the time. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone on a night time wander through the city. I was incredibly naive, so I blame my travelling companion.
It was his suggestion that we go and explore our surroundings after dinner. And so it was that a fresh faced AJ and his boss of freckly face, red tinged hair and ginger beard set out from our hotel to see what we could see.
Since he was the one with the map, I just shuffled along after him with no great enthusiasm. It had been a long day, and I was unused to travelling. With a conference next morning, all I wanted to do was get back to the hotel and sleep for Ireland. After a good half hour of aimless wandering I started to pick up on a different vibe to the area we found ourselves in.
Cars with very loud music slowed down and honked their horns at us. Hooded shadows shouted from alleyways. Big breasted women were asking “You lookin’ for some action honey?”. I was genuinely getting a bit panicked at this stage. I had never seen breasts that big before and this unnatural sight prompted me to pipe up:
“Eh, Boss, this is looking a bit dodgy – do you not think we should head back? I don’t like the look of this place.”
“Bah, cop on. If we go to the end of this street we should it will take us down towards the Harbour area..”
“Are you sure? Looks like a bit of dead end to me..”
“Oh wait a sec, I really can’t see this map very well…”
That was the cue for us to seek out better light, which happened to be at an intersection. So there we were - almost midnight in what turned out to be the cheap end of the red light district of Baltimore, standing with a map staring around and quite obviously lost. Fodder for some ne’er do wells it has to be said.
Next thing we hear this piercing whistle. Startled, we both look up to see a guy in a leather jacket blowing a trail of cigarette smoke heading towards us. “Oh shite”, I muttered, “Here comes trouble.”
“Howyiz lads, are yiz lost are ye? I saw yis there from across the street and said to meself I bet they’re Irish – are ye?”
“Eh, we are yeah. How did you guess?”, says the boss.
“Jaysis. Well it’s not fuckin’ hard to guess with the mop of red hair on ye.” says smoking Cavan man laughingly.
He said we were gobshites for walking around in this particular part of the city standing out like two sore thumbs. He recommended we get a taxi back to the hotel, and do our exploration by day – which we did. I was very happy at this development. The boss was a bit of a Magnus Magnusson character and we could have been traipsing around all night until we found the harbour.
Thankfully, we made it back to hotel safely. It didn’t take me long to get to sleep that night despite the fact that the hotel wasn’t far away from a Fire Brigade depot. I dreamt of the smoking hero who came to our rescue, and I dreamt of red hair and what might have happened if the boss didn’t have two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 4.
On Facebook? You can join the Hug a Redhead group if you wish.
And before I go – what is the story with TG4 showing South Park at 6.30 in the evening?