I’ve always felt a sort of, I suppose, misguided affinity with the Irish. My dad told me when I was younger of the signs that would hang in shop windows – “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish.” And I just imagined that the three would hang outside, on high streets, and peer into the windows of a country that hated them.

Of course, this was never really the case. Being hated is no foundation for a friendship. And the dogs didn’t really give a shit.

Nevertheless, when I detected an Irish accent at the hairdressers’ this morning I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it belonged to my new stylist. There aren’t many Irish people in Shropshire. In fact, I know one other, and I think she puts it on anyway.

But this was the real thing. And, as we chatted, I thought to myself – if only there were a dog and a country that hated us the picture would be complete. I was quickly glad that there were neither.

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