Sunday, May 3, 2009

What's that Orb in the Sky?

In March it was raining as usual. Big fat drops, little skinny drops, drops of all descriptions, and all of them seeming to have my naked head as their target. As I hurried along the main street in my small town of Navan, doing what I could to keep the trickling mess of water from pouring down my jacket collar, I felt that I was on God's wet shooting range. I imagined that He was nicely settled in a duck blind of some type or description, cup of tea at His elbow, smiling down at earth, and with me in his sights. 'Ah-hah!' he was saying coyly. 'There's Richards. The poor slob thinks he's going to get away with it. Ah, look at him! Hurrying toward that cozy looking dry spot underneath that Oak Tree there.' And God took aim, and the heavens opened, and wouldn't you know it but I reached that Oak Tree soaked to the skin.

I've always mentioned that it rains all the time in Ireland. It rains so much that we've moth-balled our Factor 15, and know that we'll only experience sun when we finally get up and pay out large money to get to France or Greece or Orlando, or those other warm and sunny spots that lie across the globe, just out of reach.

Discussing the weather is something that you must become adept at if you plan on visiting here. In Ireland, the weather is a constant source of conversation. We begin discussions with it and end discussions with it. At times, the state of our Irish climate can become the topic of serious conversation. For instance, my neighbour Phil, a good guy who works for the Prison Service, will be outside attempting to cut his lawn between showers. I'll walk out to study the sodden state of affairs, wondering how in God's name the poor man is going to plough his lawnmower through the sodden green mass confronting him.

'Fecker,' Phil will say, as he starts the mower for the hundredth time. 'Bloody hell,' he'll state as it bogs down again in the tangled mess of overgrowth. 'Feck it!' he'll finally yell as he abandons the mower to the elements and heads inside. Then he'll notice me standing there, watching him. 'Have you seen the weather report?' he'll ask. 'Rain,' I'll state. 'Feck it to hell. I'll cut it tomorrow.' And Phil will go inside for a well deserved cup of tea.

As I say, it rains incessently, and at times even the best of us get fed up with the whole business. Suicide can sometimes seem a better option, especially in the Spring, when you've already managed to get through five months of rain, and truly believe that the sun just has to shine. But then you know that you're fooling yourself, and know that it's probably going to rain until at least June. Or maybe July or August or September. But then Autumn will be here, and the whole bloody cycle of rain will start all over again.

Of course, there are times when it doesn't rain. On those occasions - which can last even two whole weeks! - it seems that God has gone on holidays and forgotten to reload his rain machine. What happens is this:

We'll be standing in our living room, my good wife and I, and all of a sudden the rain will STOP. Suddenly, the grey mass of cloud will lift a bit, and the two of us will stare hopefully at each other. 'Do you think?' she will say. 'No,' I will reply. 'It's a joke. Don't get your hopes up.'

And then we'll notice it. Rays of sunlight! We'll run out into the yard, staring up at the glowering clouds, sunlight whisping hopefully around their edges. Around us, all of our neighbours will have lined the paths, all of us staring upward as if watching an aerial display. Our mouths will open with hope, agape as the clouds continue to part. Then someone will see it first.

'There!' Phil might say as the clouds part. 'What's that golden orb in the sky!' And cries of ooh's and ahh's will rise to the heavens as the warmth of that long-lost star streams upon our pates.

The sun does shine in Ireland. It's just that when it comes out, it takes most of us a while to recognise it. But take heart! 'Sunshine' is honestly a part of Ireland's vocabulary after all.


  1. Hello Tom.

    I have just had the pleasure of reading your book 'A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland' and also your updated online edition. My wife and I found your insight to be extremely helpful as we plan our big move to Ireland from Orlando, Florida at the end of December.

    What areas within commuting distance to Dublin would you suggest for a family with two small children (ages 3 years and 6 months)?

    All the best,

    Mike Walton

  2. Apologies for not including our email address in the previous post. It is

    Best regards,