In Leitrim, sometimes I don't know if it's raining or if I am living in a cloud

Michael Harding: The two of us stand at the end of the garden. The lake below, the moon above

‘It’s not just that I don’t know when it’s going to rain. But in Leitrim, sometimes I don’t even know if it is raining, or if I’m just living in a cloud.’ Photograph: istock

‘It’s not just that I don’t know when it’s going to rain. But in Leitrim, sometimes I don’t even know if it is raining, or if I’m just living in a cloud.’ Photograph: istock

 

I was in the doctor’s waiting room last week, talking to another patient.

“Is that you’re jeep outside?” I wondered.

“It is,” he replied, “sort of; and sort of not.”

I said, “That’s not an answer you’d give to the guards, is it?”

“I might,” he replied.

“But is it your jeep?” I persisted, because it was a 191 Pajero.

“It is and it isn’t,” he said, “cos it’s not paid for yet. So I don’t know is it mine, or the banks.”

After that I changed the subject. I suppose the marvellous thing about the Irish mind is that it’s like the weather; it’s never certain.

The doctor asked me if I was taking enough exercise. I told him that I walk around the garden at night. Especially when there’s a full moon. I put on a coat and hat and go out with the cat, who rushes up the trees beside me to indicate that she’s in peek condition.

Perhaps you should walk a little further than the end of the garden

The two of us stand at the end of the garden, close to the edge of the quarry and enjoy the lake below and the moon above.

“Exercise is not just about admiring nature,” the doctor cautioned.

“Perhaps you should walk a little further than the end of the garden.”

“But it’s difficult to leave the sofa,” I protested, “when the weather is so uncertain.”

It’s not just that I don’t know when it’s going to rain. But in Leitrim, sometimes I don’t even know if it is raining, or if I’m just living in a cloud.

One day last week the sun was shining so I headed off for a walk. But before I got to the front gate it was lashing, so I returned to the house and put on leggings and an anorak. A little later, as I went back up the hill the sun came out and I was sweating all the way home.

In fact I was in a shop in Carrick-on-Shannon that afternoon and a woman stared at me and asked me why I was wearing plastic leggings on a sunny day. I would have liked to tell her that they were certainly not plastic, but I let that go; I think she was from Monaghan.

The weather in Warsaw was predictable. If the forecast was for rain, then it was certain to rain. If the forecast was for dry weather, you could be entirely confident about going out without an umbrella.

I remember sitting in a restaurant near plac Bankowy one day last spring when I noticed an old man outside on the street. His left hand was clutching an old briefcase as he shuffled along with his right hand touching the long window of the restaurant for direction, until he found the door. Then he came in and sat not far from me.

He also slipped a bar of chocolate from his briefcase and nibbled a few squares of that with his coffee

He looked sad; like an old bloodhound, with sagging jowls and white hair brushed back like Einstein. His shirt and jumper were grey and his suit jacket was black and shiny. 

He picked a newspaper from the shelf behind him, and placed it on the table and began turning the pages. I wondered how he would manage to read it if his eyesight was as poor as it seemed. But he took out a magnifying glass from the tattered briefcase and began to browse through the pages. He didn’t order anything but the waitress came with a coffee, because I suppose they had some kind of arrangement. And he also slipped a bar of chocolate from his briefcase and nibbled a few squares of that with his coffee.

Later he opened his purse, poured coins on to the table, picked each one up and felt its value, before laying out the price of the coffee beside his empty cup.

I had headphones slung from ear to ear, listening to a choir of nuns singing hymns in Russian. Outside the buses and trams came and went at the terminals along the street. People moved beneath gathering grey clouds and it looked like rain was coming. I saw the old man stand at the kerb waiting for his tram and I envied him.

Clearly he had been out for the day, and was probably on his way home. I expect he heard the weather forecast that morning. And so he didn’t need to worry about rain. Because if they say it won’t rain in Warsaw, then it won’t. Which is why he had no hat, coat or umbrella. And of course no Pajero either.

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