Irish Roots

Post-traumatic summer weather amnesia

 

We Irish tend to feel, with some justification, that we’re more informed about the past than most other races. Many very old issues are unresolved here: we still have a lot of unfinished history. Knowing that history, and having opinions about it, is part of every Irish person’s base culture.

But there is one area of the past for which we have a deep, wilful blind spot. We suffer from weather amnesia, in particular the virulent sub-variant, post-traumatic summer weather amnesia. On principle, we refuse to recognise that it rains here between May and September. Apart from the occasional hillwalker, no one in Ireland owns rain gear, and very few have waterproof clothing of any description. In a warm pub on a rainy July day, the most distinctive smell is of wet clothes drying.

We loathe wet summers; we take them as a personal insult, and are deeply, bitterly disappointed when it rains in August. Even though it always rains in August. So we repress the memories of a lifetime of rainy summers and, come May, expect glorious baking sunshine.

Because of this, being a weather forecaster here is a peculiarly sensitive job, and the profession has developed its own jargon, full of defensive euphemisms: “fresh and blustery”, “organised bands of showers”, “scattered outbreaks of drizzle” and, particularly common, “unsettled”. Irish weather is unsettled like the Black Death was an outbreak of acne.

Comparing the Irish and English forecasts shows just how touchy we are about this. On the BBC, the forecaster will tell you exactly how much it’s going to rain and when, perhaps with a rueful shake of the head. On RTÉ, it will never be told straight. It is absolutely obligatory to start out with a glimmer of hope – “It might be dry on Thursday” – before sheepishly revealing the approaching deluge.

Maybe some things are better repressed. If we remembered accurately, we’d realise that every Irish summer is below average.

irishroots@irishtimes.com

irishtimes.com/ancestor

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