Irish people often greet each other with a remark about the weather. If it’s sunny, you might hear, “Grand day, thank God”. If it’s raining, “Soft auld day, thanks be to God”. If it’s windy “Grand drying there today, thank God”. Irish mothers love a mild windy day. You can get a powerful amount laundry dried on days like those. Yes, we do have tumbler dryers, but for reasons of economy and ecology, the majority of Irish people hang out clothes to dry.
The standard joke at home is we have a lovely climate, ‘tis just the weather that can be awful. We do get a lot of rain , but then, without that rain, we wouldn’t have some of the world’s most verdant pastures. Cattle grazing on the green, green grass of home yield the richest, thickest, creamiest milk, in the world. Not only that, relative to their size, our cows yield a great volume of milk too. And all that lovely milk goes into making one of the finest butters in the world, “Kerrygold”. Irish cows spend at least 300 days of the year eating nothing, but grass, outside. Two thirds of the land of Ireland is given over to farming and of that, 80% of the farming land is for pasture – good old grass. All of which helps to explain why Ireland is so green you see. And for all that grass to grow and keep growing, you need plenty of rain.
Raingear, not umbrellas, is what you need if you’re in Ireland, since rain is often accompanied by wind and you’ll just end up wrestling with the umbrella. Also, every Irishman will knows that it never rains in a pub; which might explain why we have so many of them. The further west you are the more likely you are to experience the rain. There are some parts of western Ireland where, if it isn’t raining, it’s because it’s just stopped: or it’s just about to start. Still, it’s not like the torrential stuff we get here; it’s more of a dewy, wispy, dreamy, never-endy type. Did I mention that it never rains in a pub however?
We don’t see too much of Mr. Sun, he’s a bit shy back at home. Last year we had a heatwave however, with temperatures soaring into the balmy 80s. Oridinarily, if you see an Irishman with a tan, it’s more likely that what you’re observing is actually rust. But last year was exceptional. Our natural skin colour, a kind of light-blue, gave way to the eruption of billions of freckles, most of which coalesced into what might loosely be termed a patchy tan. I was at home last summer and ended up with a map of Hawaii on my back.
As for the cold, we didn’t have it too bad this winter. We rarely get snow. My mother did reported a persistent ground frost in Cork this year resulting in hens laying from a kneeling position. Winter cold is more associated with icy winds that seem to penetrate whatever layers you’re wearing. The wind then sits on your bones, and laughs at you.
Just like here, the weather however can be changeable and we’re no stranger to the ‘four seasons in one day’ phenomenon. In fact, I was chatting to an American golfer who’d been to Ireland to play a few rounds and when I asked him if he’d encountered the ‘four seasons in one day’ changeability and he countered with, “Are you kidding me? I had four seasons on one hole!”
Brian O’ Nuanain runs “Across The Pond And Beyond”, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com