Whiter shade of pale

ST PATRICK’S day is less than a month away: just enough time to dust off a green shirt, ready yourself for drinking dyed-green beer and pretend Irish-themed bars are cool.

Every March 17 the Irish celebrate their patron saint by inexplicably drinking copious amounts of Guinness.

However, their folklore also says St Patrick chased snakes across the sea into Britain, so apparently anything goes.

Last week, my friend and colleague wrote a great article about how her Indian family perceive and treat her differently she is unmarried.

This got me thinking about my own cultural identity and the way I define myself. I’m a bit of a buffet of nationalities, my mother is Irish, my father is English but I was born and raised here in South Africa.

My immediate family are the only Roanes in the country, you can look it up on the phonebook, if you can find one. My brother and I are an island of pasty gingerness in a country where I get sunburned at night.

At last count I had approximately 5000 cousins on my mother’s side, the result of six Catholic aunts and uncles and the Pope’s view on birth control.

However, they all live on the emerald isle and as a result I visit them about as often as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela visits parliament. But each time I see them, I am warmly welcomed and it is as though no time has passed between us meeting.

I also can’t understand a word any of them say. I hate to stereotype – it’s such an Italian trait – but they are probably talking about potatoes or leprechauns or something. I just smile, nod profusely and say “yes” to whatever they ask me until they think I’ve suffered a head injury and leave me alone.

While I love going back, and may live and work there in the future, I will ultimately return to South Africa because it is a large part of who I am.

If you subscribe to arguably antiquated notions of what being an African is: skin colour, ancestry or culture, then I should not call myself African, but in my heart, I am.

Despite being a first generation South African and white enough to reflect sunlight.

South Africa is my past, my home and my future. So come St Paddy’s day I will be celebrating my Irish heritage with a Guinness, but I’ll be celebrating it here, at home, in South Africa.