I was born beyond the Pale. I am a fierce Celtic barbarian with passions that flame as wildly as my streaming red hair. Bog water flows through my veins. I lived in a thatched mud shack, surviving on potatoes and wild salmon. I spent my weekends drowning myself in poitín and dancing crazy jigs at moonlit crossroads until my feet bled, spurred on by the devil’s music pouring from the fiddle of a blind man.
But I left it all behind to enter the Pale. I climbed over the barrier and landed in the middle of the gentry, horrifying them with my tangled locks, my bare feet, my dirt-smeared face. So I learned to blend in. I bathed and cleansed myself, covered my limbs in cotton and linen and my feet in the cured skins of dead cows. No more did the gentlemen and ladies wrinkle their noses in disgust when they encountered me. I adopted their accent and removed all the rhythms and cadences of my people from my speech.
I also educated myself. I devoured the respected books, immersed myself in their favourite music and followed the affairs of the important politicians and society figures.
I also learned how to hide my past and my ignorance. When a topic was mentioned that I knew little of, I retreated to the shadows of the conversation until I had informed myself from other people’s utterings. I pounced on new vocabulary as if it were jewels for my hair.
And I ensured I always learned the true meaning of an idiom before using it, so that I did not expose my barbarian roots by using a phrase, like “beyond the pale”, inappropriately.