photo by Maarten Van den Heuvel.
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THERE'S a man up in Donegal, he might be a retired postman, who predicts the weather. Not just the day to day stuff like the rest of us. A bit more long term than that. For example, he predicted the 'big snow' of 20I0, when heavy falls brought the country to a halt for about three weeks.
I don't even have a weather app on my phone. Apart from the fact that they're famously unreliable, if I want to check the weather for the day, I look at the sky. If it's blue with some of those white bubbly clouds, I know we're going to have a good day.
If it's heavy and grey, with even darker clouds coming over the horizon, I can confidently predict rain. And if it's just looking a bit meh, I opt for a Met Eireann* approach. 'Today will be a mixture of sunny spells with scattered showers, although there may be heavier rain in places.'
As a child, I used to think that our weather service actually decided what sort of weather we would get. Perhaps I wasn't the brightest bulb in the light fitting, but I think it had something to do with my mother's approach to the 'sunny spells and scattered showers' predictions. As a keen gardener, she'd explain that plants and flowers needed a healthy mix of sun and water to thrive.
She'd actually become anxious if there was no rain for a week, especially if the government then declared a national water shortage and a hose pipe ban. It was like living on a farm without the livestock. Or the land, obviously.
Anyway, back to the man in Donegal. The kind of weather he predicts is more long term. Which doesn't mean he's one of those climatologists. Not as far as I know. Instead, he says that he carries on the old traditions of predicting what sort of summer or winter we're about to have in Ireland. He observes things like animals and insects, and how birds are behaving. A bit like the groundhog in the US, I suppose. Without the festival. But mid-May this year, he declared a magnificent summer ahead.
'Really?' I folded my arms at the time and peered doubtfully out the window, where hailstones the size of gobstoppers were bouncing off the paths.
'It's true.' The husband handed me the newspaper article. We still buy newspapers in our house. There's something wonderfully reassuring about opening an actual newspaper, its print smudging your fingers. It beats scrolling through your phone any day. I read the piece and sighed.
It was around the same time that given that only half of our population was vaccinated, rain, hail, biting winds or scorching sun aside, we were in for what the government termed 'an outdoor summer'.
In our village, where you're rapidly becoming a pariah if you dare to drive - there is a new snobbery amongst hardcore cyclists - whole areas, including one small road around our village green have become outdoor restaurants.
Actually, that's rather nice. Burgers and chips or plates of pasta gain elevated status when they're being served under canopies in the street. And even lovlier when you don't need to wear a thermal vest and sit on top of a patio heater to enjoy them. Continental eating but with Irish pricetags. Still, you can't have everything.
But it seems the old ways of predicting the weather - whatever they are - are actually true. We're having a great summer here. Not the sort of summer our continental cousins can regularly boast, obviously. Because even when the natives are flashing the flesh, our baffled foreign visitors are still wandering around wearing designer sweaters and those little pouches belted around their waists with foldup rain jackets. No faith, any of them.
Still, it's a good Irish summer. Some days temperatures have hit highs of 26 degrees celcius. Nobody minds when the rain comes. The farmers need it, the grass needs it, my tomato plants in growbags on my patio need it. And lookit, why else do we have the canopies in the street? Sunny spells and scattered showers: so long as there's more of the first bit, we'll be happy.
*Met Eireann: The Irish national weather service.
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