Tonight, the 12th century walls of the citadel of Villefranche will echo to sound of – a ceilidh. A ceilidh! you repeat, astonished – not just that I can spell it, but that there should be an Irish knees-up on the French Riviera.
Well yes, for at least two reasons: it’s March 17, St Patrick's day; and St Paddy, although the patron saint of Ireland, is reputed to have been born in England in the 5th century and to have studied on the Isles de Lerins, just off the Riviera coast.
I won’t be there myself - I’ll be on my way to Liverpool with my son, to watch Everton play Aston Villa at Goodison Park. The teams will run onto the field to the tune of the ‘Z-Cars’ theme and I will have a king-size lump in my throat. I always do. I will think of the days when my Dad used to take me to Goodison Park to watch the Blues play, and hope that one day I might take my grandson.
My Dad never saw his grandchildren. I have before me a print from the 1901 UK census. In the “Newsboys’ Home”, at 118-126 Everton Road, in the Parish of Everton, in the County Borough of Everton, Liverpool, lived my Dad; another Newsboy was his older brother, Bert. By that time their father had died and their mother was a domestic servant – the usual refuge for the uneducated.
27 years later, Dad and Uncle Bert, festooned with blue and white rosettes, went to Wembley to watch Everton win the FA Cup. (Everton 3, Manchester City 0.) So you could say I’m an Evertonian both genetically and by habitation.
Furthermore, son and I are going to see Everton win: James Beattie is at last finding form and so are the team – even if there are only seven games to go to the end of the season.
But if they don’t win, it won’t matter - which seems somehow appropriate: St. Paddy’s most famed characteristic was his ability to accept success or failure with equal grace. And so will we – we will remain Everton supporters no matter what.
Still, I’d rather not have to wait another 27 years.