Monday, 12 October 2020

LIVING OUR LIVES INSIDE OUT





A COUPLE of weeks back I made the bold prediction that this Winter in Ireland, fashion would be all about the coat. 

Obviously, I know that every Winter is about the coat. Most of us have cold Winters. Here in Ireland, our Winter months also tend to be quite wet. Which makes a decent coat or jacket less of a fashion statement, and more of a necessity. 

But for those not familiar with how we're dealing with Covid in Ireland, I'll breifly fill you in. Right now, we're in what the government calls Level 3. I won't bore anyone with the exact details (in fact, I'd probably have to go and look them up) but it's basically life half way between Level 1, where things are so close to normal, you'd hardly know there was anything strange happening, and Level 5 which means the whole country is in lockdown. 

So, schools remain open, most college students are studying online from home (except for practical work), shops are doing a bit of careful business and restaurants and cafes are allowed to do takeaways and outdoor coffees and dining. 

Have you ever seen outdoor dining in Ireland? It's a bit like year round swimming in the Irish sea or the Atlantic ocean, depending on which side of the country you live. Grand in the Summer - I'd stretch to lovely if we get a heatwave - but a test of everything that makes you Irish when the weather turns against you.  

Hollywood star Matt Damon was a regular swimmer in Dalkey on the east coast of Dublin while he found himself stuck here during lockdown earlier this year (and speaking as a Dubliner, there are far worse places to be locked-down) but he'd have to dig deep down to plunge into the Irish sea in the middle of December. Then again, the guy single-handedly made it back from Mars, so maybe it wouldn't pose a problem. 

During the day, temperatures at this time of the year float anywhere between 9 and 15 degrees celcius so a few rays of Autumn sun is enough to send us all out to pavement cafes. But on two days last week, while the tail end of a storm threatened to overturn the patio furniture, I passed a couple of places where those far hardier than me, hunched under battered umbrellas and chatted over  rain-soaked coffee cups.  

Which brings me back to outdoor dining. The real thing: at night.The kind of thing you see all the time in the Summer all around Europe, in countries that boast Mediteranean Lifestyles. And while we're both proudly Irish and proudly European on our little island, it's important to rememember that we are in fact a rather attractive rock in the Atlantic ocean, and we've never really done the outdoor dining thing. So it's fascinating to see it suddenly become a thing. And to see how we embrace it.  

As Autumn turns to Winter, I reckon year round sea swimmers might have a bit of an advantage, because they're hardier than the rest of us, who genuinely think that submerging yourself in water during the freezing winter months should involve a hot bath, low lights and a glass of wine.  

For the hot bath and glass of wine types amongst us, the more innovative cafes and restaurants aren't simply arranging tables on the pavements or setting out picnic benches in the carparks. They're investing in awnings and patio heaters, and as the colder nights close in, we'll brave outdoor versions of our favourite eateries, where waiters serve blankets and hot water bottles along with food and drink.  

The upside of all this, will be that choosing what to wear, will be all about deciding how to be warm, as opposed to trying to figure out niceties like casual, smart-casual and dammit-I've-put-on-weight-since-I-last-wore-this-fecken-dress. 

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that you could probably meet a friend for coffee or a couple of mates for dinner, wearing your pyjama top and nobody would ever know. All people will see this Winter is the long, warm coat or cool puffa jacket, the snug boots, the hat and scarf and stylish gloves.

And I will make one more prediction for the coming months. Whisper it (or shout it from those picnic benches): thermal underwear will be a thing. The Canadians and Scandinavians made it cool years ago. Go on, embrace it. Mine's on order. ;) 


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