The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Fiona Looney re­turns next week

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.

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