Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Time and the living is easy

And it burns, burns, buurns...

It begins with snippets of gossip which are summarily dismissed, you overhear excited murmurings in the post office “ it lovely for tomorrow......” and receive texts with tentative plans for outdoor activities but still you refuse to believe. This so called 'heatwave', ie anything upwards of 17 degrees Celsius, is most likely just an elaborate hoax started by an ice cream van man tired of playing his jingle to a series of empty avenues. Despite your best intentions you chance upon a weather report that evening and it appears Jean Byrne is in on this whole ruse as she cheerily informs us to get the suncream out and avoid UV Rays between the hours of 10 and 4. The first quiver of excitement coarses through your veins and you curse yourself for being so foolish. Better to just banish all hopeful thoughts from your mind you think as you retire for the night certain that upon waking you will be met with the usual drab dismal morning you've become accustomed to.

Irish people are built not physically nor mentally for warm weather climes. A skin tone best described as being slightly south of pale and a approach to life which rests somewhere between sombre resignation and joyless melancholy means that a climate of intermittent rain and drab grey skies suits us just fine. Our relationship with our weather is one built upon trust, it remains thoroughly predictable and in return we don't complain too much about it. Those that aren't happy about it can sod off to another country and deal with hurricanes, tsunamis and the like, everybody else is content to moan incessantly and occasionally threaten to 'head off to the sun'. But for all our acceptance of endlessly overcast days turning into weeks and months we all secretly yearn for guaranteed balmy summers and each and every year without fail we get our hopes up only for them to be dashed time and time again.

So when all of this is taken into account is it any wonder the entire country goes stir crazy at the first sight of that giant behemoth in the sky? Ancient folklore tells of men driven wild by the sight of a full moon but nowhere in the history books does it mention the crazed antics of the Irish once the rarely spotted Sun comes out to play. We take to the streets like stupefied zombies, unsure as to what to do but knowing that we have to be there, attired in all manner of clothing depending on how prepared we were for this momentous time. Straight away you can see those that have been somewhat prepared and those that haven't. You have the types that lie in wait for the summer like stealth ninjas who are dressed like something straight off Bondi Beach determined to not only blister in the heat but look good whilst doing so. Then there's the ones who are moderately equipped and manage to rifle through their wardrobes producing an ensemble that although not exactly 'chic' is passable enough under the circumstances. Then there's everybody else.

Like the result of a fashion parade for the mentally unwell many Irish bask in the heat with little or no self awareness and in some cases little or no items of clothing. You have your stereotypical young white males wearing nothing but a pair of GAA shorts and a well worn pair of Reebok classics, this character will generally only be spotted on the first day of nice weather as he will spend at least a fortnight tending to excruciating wounds caused by first degree burns. Then there's the mix and match brigade, totally taken aback by this sudden increase in temperature they get into a mindless panic throwing on whatever items of clothing they can find before rushing out into the sun without so much as a glance in the mirror. I can only presume that they don't take the time to peruse their appearance before heading out as some of the ensembles witnessed can only be worn by those short of sight or indeed completely blind. Bermuda shorts coupled with tshirts urging you to be part of 'Jackie's army' are casually draped on to bodies which haven't seen the light of day since a sweaty coalescence on Christmas Night. Sunglasses ordinarily worn by pop stars in some futile attempt at irony are brandished without shame and Fedora hats are jauntily perched atop the heads of those that should really know better.

Accompanying this carnival of insanity is of course the ubiquitous 'drink'. Beer gardens which had hitherto played host to nothing but hardy smokers are now bristling cauldrons of drunken reverie as afternoon beverages turn into days on the lash, all fuelled by the blazing sun. But this self contained environment is just the tip of the iceberg, all around the country local parks, fields, avenues, estates, beaches and open spaces of any shape, size or form are awash with topless youths (and some not so youthful) hosting impromptu outdoor shindigs with not a care in the world. Music is provided by whatever means necessary and for once the neighbours aren't compelled to bring complaint such is the feeling of togetherness brought about by the tropical temperature. Untold criminal offences are committed in broad daylight but passing police officers choose to look kindly upon the young ne'er do wells seeing as it's 'a nice day and all'. Fights break out, vomit is spewed, cherries are popped, tears are shed and everyone has splendid fun until it's time to limp home for a night of restless writhing beneath blankets that are far too warm under the circumstances.


Suddenly you can't move for whinging people. Not just the elderly and the goths either, everybody is complaining about the heat and how they can't cope with it anymore. The bonhomie of the previous few days is forgotten as we seek solace by any means possible, grown men hold ridiculous miniature fans to their faces and any outdoor space offering a modicum of shade is snapped up vigorously. We're now content to enjoy the sun but only from afar thank you very much. The government issuing warnings over reservoir levels is the final straw for some, they now have a justified reason to want that odious ball of fire to scuttle off to wherever it came from and aren't afraid to voice their concerns. It doesn't take long before we become a nation on red alert. Scenes of scorched earth with nothing but dying crops are aired on the news as a tearful farmer lambasts the Gods and their cursed weather. Supermarkets tell of record spring water sales as waterworks become increasingly unpredictable in households all around the country not helping the already less than fragrant ambience of many abodes. Where will it end we think, damn you global warming and your devious ways we never asked for this!!

Then just as quickly as it arrived it's gone. You wake up one morning and instead of pitter pattering around the house in a state of undress you notice a slight chill in the air and rush to put on a tshirt. You look out the window and there's these strange yet slightly familiar fluffy objects in the sky obstructing the source of all this commotion just like they're supposed to. You reach into a sock drawer that hasn't seen the light of day for aeons and pull on a lovely woolen pair with relish as your flip flops lie neglected in the corner. It's all over, we've had our fun now things can return to normality. We had a lovely time we really did and look at how brown we all are, I did get roasted at first but sure it was worth it in the end. That was some session we had that Friday, great craic, can't beat slugging a few flagons on a sunny afternoon, ah the memories. Wouldn't want it to get that hot again though, feckin scorching it was how did we manage at all. Thank God for the nice predictable Irish weather and it's cuddly little clouds and cooling minor showers, we wouldn't change it for the world.

A week or so passes, it's the middle of August and the weather is typically Irish, grey, occasionally warm but thoroughly depressing. As you enter your local post office you hear someone speaking to the teller “This weather is a bloody joke isn't it, are we going to get a summer at all this year”.