Maggie Thatcher once famously said that Northern Ireland was British as her constituency, Finchley. In cerain parts of Northern Ireland, especially in July, you’ll certainly see more British flags per square mile than in the said North London suburb. Finchley, like many other parts of London has become something of a cultural melting pot. If you walk its streets, you’ll find grocery stores run by Poles, Iranians and Indians, Turkish, Indian, Chinese,Thai and Japanese restaurants, ads in shop windows or in the local papers for Polish plumbers and various “massage services” provided by foreign girls. Never mind the illegal trafficking and enforced slavery of young women of course – as long as there’s a loophole in the law to be found and money to be made.
And like almost anywhere else in North London, you’ll also find Irish pubs. This raises the more pertinent question – is Northern Ireland as Irish as Finchley? The discerning GAA enthusiast who finds himself stranded in Finchley on a hot summer’s weekend of Championship action is somewhat spoiled for choice as to where he can watch the match. Being the culchie redneck bogtrotter from Tyrone that I am, I was naturally keen to watch the red hands do battle against Mayo for a place in the All-Ireland quarter finals. The highest concentration of Hibernianised watering holes to be found in the area is on North Finchley’s main street. O’Neills doesn’t really count as it caters more for the plastic paddy than the genuine article. Of the remaining three, The Wishing Well was experiencing a technical fault, The Erris (bizarrely for a Mayo-owned establishment) deferred in favour of the racing – which left Toolans. It was a hard-fought battle with many a near-miss and a few scrappy incidents – but I managed to get served in the end.