First things first. There’s a great deal I like about being Irish.
An appreciation of the underdog, the mental ability to handle days and weeks of rain at a time, a healthy bulls***meter.
But more than once over the years I’ve felt that it’s time to hand my passport in.
It’s not the old post-colonial self-loathing (blaming the Brits being a national sport), but there are times, when I spot a news story or overhear a remark, that I wonder: what the hell is this place?
Like when I see this.
Because the first question you ask, when you discover that you’ve spent your life eating carcinogens is: ‘can I still eat carcinogens? Two or three types fried up together?’
Of all the gifts Ireland’s bestowed on the world the ‘Irish breakfast’ is the one that leaves me the coldest.
It’s ‘wrap the green flag round me’ on a plate. It’s traditional (but don’t the Brits, and the Ulstermen, have their versions too?), it’s salt of the earth, it patriotically supports the Irish meat industry, and it’s washed down by that other Irish morning staple – tea.
It’s eaten by all ages, from cradle to grave; and served everywhere, from the overpriced, tears-in-your- ketchup nostalgia version at departures in Dublin Airport, to the under-heated, shrivelled apology-on-a-plate passed off to you at your mid-range b and b. And in a thousand sad breakfast buffets in between.
The bacon’s either see-through or incinerated (occasionally both), the sausage an emaciated Denny Gold medal, the tomato cold and the eggs rubbery – but not as rubbery as those tumorous button mushrooms you try (and fail) to spear.
At least the baked beans are edible – but that’s probably because they’ve come from a tin.
Now it’s under threat. The World Health Organisation has advised that processed meat causes cancer, prompting panicked warnings of ‘the end of breakfast-as-we-know it’ and fuelling vox pops in greasy spoons with red-faced, recalcitrant diners who pledge a dying loyalty to their daily sausage.
Irish civilisation – or that part of it that exists between 8 and 10am and is collecting its cholesterol medication afterwards – is under threat.
But fear not. Given that the Irish are among the most prolific drinkers in the world, and that one-in-five of us still smoke, one or two other cancers are likely to have first call on our national mortality.
Much as it disturbs me, the Irish breakfast always endures. It’s survived recessions and depressions, world and civil wars. Even dioxins in pork couldn’t stop it. When the last Irishman drags his wearied, ragged frame across what remains of post-apocalyptic Dublin his final words will be: “what time does Matt The Rashers open at?”
As for me, I’ll stick to a couple of the other things the Irish are famous for. Like porridge. And complaining.