“Thanks for the bailout,” cried a girl in a leprechaun hat, holding a placard featuring Jedward.
“Careful now,” yelled a boy at her, tooting his plastic horn. Ahead, the Berlin pipe band continued its drone and children dressed in Viking hats danced a jig.
It’s 4 pm in Goerlitzer Park in Kreuzberg, a district in west Berlin. The Irish “parade” is making a haphazard round of the park. “St Patrick,” tall, thin with a long brown beard and a wooden cane is in front. A paper dragon is floating beside him, held up by three girls in green felt, dressed as shamrocks.
I joined in just as the gathering entered the park. There were a few hundred Irish at least, bottles of Weissbier in one hand, and mini tricolours in the other.
Thick country accents initiated a rendition of “The Fields of Athenry,” which rippled a few rows up before it gave way to traditional songs I had never heard before.
I had no idea that there were so many Irish in Berlin. I was hoping for a similar-minded awkward loner, with which I could strike up a friendship. But it wasn’t to be. The people were already tipsy, and, dressed in leprechaun hats, moving only in large groups.
I found myself behind the Irish ambassador to Germany. Actually, when I come to think of it, thats’s just who I think he was. But, if circumstantial evidence stands, he was the only man in a suit and green tie with a well-groomed wife in an emerald outfit by his side.
Despite being lonesome on such a day of festivities, I went into a bar decorated with green paper shamrocks. I asked for a Berliner Weiss but they said “nicht hetute.” So I got a Guinness, for the day that was in it. It cost twice as much as the other beers, and tasted foul.
It came in a plastic cup, which I took back to Goerlitzer park.
I sat on top of a hill and watched the people around me.
Next to me was a group of six teenage boys. They were taking drugs of some sort. At one point two of them put their faces together, cupping each other’s mouths as if they were going to kiss in secret. They stayed like that for a few seconds and after, the blonde boy’s face broke into a gloriously pure smile, like that of an infant: ecstasy.
Lower down the hill, a couple was playing chess on a magnetic travel board. She had a long flowing skirt and three dreadlocks, and he was bald apart from a floppy green Mohawk hanging limp to one side.
A woman in a dirty black leather jacket and a face entirely obscured by scraggly hair, stumbled to the couple and asked “Hast du eine Zigarette?” The man had a bag of tobacco, which he pushed towards her. She fumbled in it and then flopped down beside the girl. The couple continued to play their game of chess. The woman in black began writhing beside them, and moving closer to the girl, until her head was resting on her lap. Every once in a while, she would raise her feet and kick the air.
When the couple had finished their game, they got up gingerly and said “tchuess” to their dosed-up friend.
She didn’t hear them, and lay alone, her head in the grass.
I finished my Guinness just as it was getting dark.
On the way home I got off at Alexander Platz, the former centre of east Berlin.
There I saw the iconic television tower, glowing green. I looked up at it for a while. Then I disappeared underground again and made my way home, where the cat was waiting for me.