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Nothing says summer in Ireland like a chic Italian in an ankle-length puffer coat

Emer McLysaght: The elusive convertible owners also start to appear once the mercury hits canal-pints levels

Lads with their tops off, a heaving salad plate with pipes of ham and blackened hard-boiled egg yolks, scores of people toting bags of cans along the shores of canals and waterways filling every available patch of green grass and wooden lock. These are the scenes that come to mind when you picture a warm and sunny summer day in Ireland. These days – often a spell of a week or more – always seem to take us by surprise even though we are blessed with at least a couple of prolonged sunny stretches every year.

The dark, wet and borderline hostile winter months gaslight us into thinking our little island is incapable of anything else, but then, when the mocks are over and the real exams are looming on the horizon, we shed our cloak of sleety misery and lift our faces to the brightening skies that herald the arrival of Leaving Cert weather. Then, when the thermometer creeps over 18 degrees for the first time and the first queue forms outside an ice cream shop, nothing can break our collective spirit as we text each other pictures of the temperature reading from inside the car. Nothing that is, except the Italian tourists.

I don’t know if they’re all Italian, but I assume they are because the Italians are always dressed in the most expensive and chic outerwear. As the temperatures soar to near 20 degrees in Dublin city – a temperature at which the paddling pools take up their semi-permanent positions in the garden and only need to be topped up with one glug of hot water from the kettle – the Italians remain dressed for winter. Nothing says summer in Ireland like an Italian tourist skulking around outside Trinity or the Guinness Storehouse in an ankle-length puffer coat and two scarves while all around them the locals are sweating into their linen shorts.

The next person who makes an appearance as soon as the mercury hits canal-pints levels is the convertible owner. There can be no more than 16 convertible car owners in Ireland, for what would be the point? Yes, we have sunny days but even the most devoted sunbathing-in-17-degrees Irish summer defender would admit that driving at any speed with the top down would be chilly. You’d need one of the Italians’ coats. Such a person needs to have a skin thick enough to take the deserved slagging that comes with both owning and driving a convertible, and have a neck brass enough to take the car out, top down, at the first hint of sun. This is why you always, always see at least one of the 16 as soon as the first summer day drops.


The kids in wet suits don’t even need temperatures to be that high before they’re flinging themselves joyfully into canals and rivers. It’s the adults in wetsuits you’ll start to spy as soon as real summer arrives. They shriek and holler as just one toe touches the Irish Sea at Sandycove or Seapoint or Vico Road, swaddling themselves in Dryrobes after a three-second dip and making a big show of cradling a hot whiskey. Literal babies in swimsuits put them to shame as they splash joyfully in the fresh water.

Alongside the summer babies are the harried parents. You’ll see them pushing a creaking buggy laden with all the usual stuff, plus the extra gear necessary for the hot weather: sunscreen, change of outfit for when the first one is soaked by a wave, third outfit for when the second one is destroyed with ice cream, extra snacks, extra drinks, sun hats, water nappies, beach toys, wind breakers, sun shelters, the family dog and maybe the bathroom sink for good measure.

Watching this procession of worldly belongings will be an old-timer. A nostalgia hound who remembers when all summers were like this. When the sun split the stones from May 1st to September 20th and nobody cared a jot about climate change (except we did care about climate change and our every waking moment was dominated with worries about the hole in the ozone layer and ditching the CFCs. How quickly they forget).

Meanwhile, at home, the one true mark of summer has made itself known. A bulbous fly finds its way in through a barely cracked kitchen window. It spends the next six hours failing to find its way back out again, despite all exits thrown open for its escape. Even if the fly does leave, a friend will soon be along to take its place. Ah, summer.