THE WAY I SEE IT
It was one of the most astonishing sentences I think I’ve ever read. Soon after the heatwave began, a newspaper website reported: ‘Forecasters said this has been the best spell of weather the country has enjoyed since the five glorious days from July 16-20 seven years ago.’
Just think about that for a second. Not a ‘great summer’. Not ‘a lovely month’. Just five glorious DAYS. And seven years ago.
That’s what we settle for here. I mentioned it to a friend and he said, ‘Yes, they’re right, because my son is seven and actually never has seen a summer.’ Even your average 14-year-old probably has few memories of the season that don’t include the thunderous sound of torrential rain pounding the roof on a mobile home that endlessly is threatened with being blown off its supports by a ferocious Atlantic gale.
Just last August, I was invited to join a cruise for a one- night sailing from Dublin to Cork. When we arrived at the mouth of Cork Harbour in 114km/ h winds, the captain and pilot decided between them that it was too dangerous to attempt to dock. That is why, three days later, I woke up in Amsterdam, which was the next port of call.
Who would have believed that the weather in August (to me, incidentally, that is early autumn, but someone appears to be playing around with the seasons and Met Éireann now classes June, July and August as summer) could be so atrocious that a ship of that size could not safely make its way to port? Yet we shouldn’t be surprised. I bought my house in Co. Wexford (in the allegedly sunny Southeast) in 2005 and that summer, and the one that followed, were very pleasant for the most part.
I even bought a standalone hammock and spent almost every weekend curled up on it reading books or just sleeping in the fresh air. Seven years later, the hammock is ready for the skip. The paint is peeling and there’s rust everywhere. As for the patio heater I bought that year, well, it’s still in the shed, in the box and unassembled. It may also be wrecked because in a gale last month, the asphalt was ripped off the roof of the shed and everything inside looks damp and mouldy and smells like only an Irish summer can.
That’s why the past couple of weeks, for all the minor fluctuations in temperature, have been so much fun. I don’t know about you, but I was checking the outdoor temperature on the dashboard of the car every couple of minutes to see if I could spot the moment 29 degrees turned to 30 (it did, as I was driving through my childhood home of Ballybrack, which seemed somehow appropriate since every day of every childhood, summer seems to have been 30 degrees). It was ludicrously exciting.
And how nice it has been to see shirts and sheets on the clothes line, gently soaking up the sun until they seem baked rather than dried. How nice is the peace and quiet in the house without the machinations of a tumble drier endlessly having to pick up the slack where Mother Nature left off.
And the back garden, normally a swamp you’d be better attacking with a paddle steamer than with a lawnmower, finally looks tidy and twice as big now that it’s no longer a meadow with odd-looking bulrushes that play dead for a few minutes before popping up again.
Out on the street, the sound is of children playing, or excitedly passing the window with their boogie boards as they head down to the beach, not for five minutes between showers but for the entire day. To see the carefree joy on their faces is the best thing about this wonderfully unexpected gift of decent weather.
Best of all, is there any pleasure greater than being able to eat dinner outdoors while watching the dying sunlight filtered through a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio and enjoying the gorgeous smell of dying charcoal in a barbecue?
We have a lot to cope with at the moment but such simple little things go a long way to making up for the misery. If we have to have economic gloom and doom, then the weather should compensate for it, not reflect it. At least, that’s the way I see it.