Yes, yes, let’s talk about the weather!
With thanks to WS Gilbert for the title
In the UK everyone talks about the weather. It’s a national pastime and one we came to expect and accept. It seems it is the same in Ireland. One important difference here is you cannot go into a shop, pick up a paper, put the money down and walk out. No, every transaction begins with, “Hello, how are ye today?” Then a few general pleasantries and then, if you are in for the first time, some gentle(ish) questions about who, what, why… Especially why did you come to Ireland – and inevitably this is followed by, “It wasn’t for the weather, for sure”. Everyone talks about the weather, especially in the country where it can be vital for the farmers.
The community here is a decent size – small UK town or big village maybe. Yet the second time we went into the pharmacy the woman serving greeted Jacqui by her first name and asked how we were settling in. This has been the case practically everywhere. One notable thing for us coming from the growing “hostile environment” in the UK was everyone, when they heard we had bought our house, was pleased. And so many said something like, “Well now, firstly you are very welcome”. And then they would add something about the weather, of course.
At the moment we have a heat wave with glorious sunshine and temperatures topping 29 degrees. That’s about 85 in Fahrenheit. The sky is a startling blue, the clouds are shiny white and everything in the garden has gone mad. There were some lumpy, frosted stems in the front we thought we should remove in the spring. Suddenly we had lilies – five feet tall and luminescent in the sunlight. The lavender round the Majestic has gone crazy and fills the air with scent. It is far too hot to do much during the day so I have been up early and tried a bit of clearing with the strimmer. As I am rather short (and the weeds are very high) I invested in a helmet with visor to fend off tumbling nettles and thistles. I look ridiculous – a sort of mini Darth Vader – but it is better than a face full of undergrowth.
We also decided to cut our losses and got a man with a digger in to clear the side garden. John and his magic machine were terrific. Where the suspect piles of rubbish and heaps of brambles made any progress impossible we now have rich, fallow soil that is almost level. Several passers-by have asked what we are going to do with the land. We don’t know yet though the back by the hedge is earmarked for a wild flower garden. And best of all, the rats will be gone from there. John steered his digger round the margins and carefully avoided disturbing the hedges. These are a bit overly enthusiastic at the moment but we are leaving then until autumn. The birds are nesting here – robins, blackbirds and gold finches – and they will not be disturbed. Even the starlings have been let alone.
Speaking of starlings, we had a tense moment in the spring. One morning we heard strange noises coming from the log burner chimney. They were faint at first and we thought it was birds on the roof. Over the morning they got louder until we could hear scrabbling in the metal pipe. Calls to local sweeps went unanswered so we tried to open the stove ourselves. After a frantic call to the previous owners we managed to lift the top and a young starling shot out, flying past us into the kitchen. After several attempts Jacqui managed to catch it and let it out of the back door, much to the disappointment of the dogs. It flew onto the roof and chattered at us for five minutes before flying off. It would be nice to think it was thanking us but somehow I don’t think so.
When we arrived it was grey – grey with shades of mud. Even the snow fell from grey clouds and there was not enough to settle and turn the countryside white. Everyone in England told us how wet and rainy it was in Ireland. We looked out of the window and wondered whether we had made a mistake after all. Now in the midst of summer with flowers, birds, trees and insects (oh so many insects!) we know we will have these bright days to look to when winter comes. And hopefully everything will stop growing and we can make some progress.