Orna Mulcahy: Can we all just chill out and enjoy the snow?

Please calm down, stop buying extra food and enjoy down time if real snow falls

Social media is awash with videos of people both enjoying and braving the wintry conditions as freezing weather grips Europe. Video: Reuters

 

Is it going to be one massive damp squib or could it be lockdown by Wednesday teatime, the rest of the week cancelled and nothing but tinned food to see us through to Saturday? Snow is not blanketing Ireland just yet, but the Government has the country on high alert. It’s hit minus 11 in Markree, and weather woman Evelyn Cusack is gesticulating wildly at a swirling vortex moving in from Siberia. People are going around in full ski gear. PR firms have introduced the jaunty email sign off of “stay warm!”, even as the sun is struggling to get through on just another cold winter day.

Talk of the snow, if not the snow itself, has the country in its grip.

Hospital appointments are being cancelled and it can’t be long before the dread text to say that school is OFF. Gloves? You can’t get a pair anywhere in this town. It’s not all a joke. A friend’s fledgling business is in trouble – all 10 clients have cancelled an event she was organising for them on Saturday.

Meanwhile, rail platforms and footpaths are crunchy with grit and salt. Apps have been set up and the fridges at The Irish Times are groaning with extra milk supplies. There’s talk of snow ploughs, the mosque in Clonskeagh is ready to take in stranded souls. We’re in Chicken Licken territory: the sky is about to fall down on us.

What harm would it be to spend a day at home with the fire on and the curtains drawn, snuggled up with family, cats or dogs?

Alarmed at it all, we set off for Ballybrack Tesco last night, but Twitter was right. There were only a few packets of spicy naan left in the bread aisle. This morning I nearly missed my train while ogling a Foxford dressing gown and a ratty fur coat in the window of the local charity shop.

Send us your Beast from the East pictures

 

Hyped weather

Yes, I hear you say, that’s all very well but who’s to blame? The media of course, hyping up the weather all the time, and there’s some truth to that. Weather stories really get people going. They’re up there in the most read with rugby coverage and restaurant closure stories featuring rat droppings. And Met Éireann with its ever more complicated charts and simulated weather fronts, is there to help make it all sound real and imminent and sometimes dangerous. From a time when nice weather man Gerard Fleming would give you a reassuring wink and a smile as a rain front moved in, we’ve moved to seemingly endless storm coverage and boy can that stuff go viral, as poor rain-lashed Teresa Mannion can attest. The language around them is getting ever more urgent – “treacherous conditions” used to be something that would make you sit up. Now, we’re only going to get out of bed for a fully blown hurricane.

Wicklow snowfall in January. Met Éireann has issued a “status orange” warning, the second most serious warning it can give under a new alert system. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times
File photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

Folks, there is going to be up to 6cm of snow in places and you know what that means? Your shoes will be in bits, but that’s probably all.

Giving storms names, taking about them as if they are coming to get us, is scary. A continuous loop of warnings about getting fuel and bottled water in, and not going out, is scary. So can people just calm down, stop buying extra food and simply look forward to a bit of down time, should real snow – and not just flurries – descend.

What harm would it be to spend a day at home with the fire on and the curtains drawn, snuggled up with family, cats or dogs?

There’s been big snow before. In 1982, my sister got into awful trouble for walking through thigh-high drifts to get to Funderland where, get this, the Big Wheel continued to turn regardless of the Arctic conditions. It’s hard to imagine that health and safety would allow that today.

Trapped snowflakes

I missed the worst of that snow. Another sister had a bad bout of psoriasis and the doctor ordered sun and so we were dispatched together to the Canaries just as the first flurries were falling. Unheard of luxury at the time, but she was desperate for a cure after a winter of constant tar baths. Out of season, it was an older crowd but we made friends with the holiday rep who entertained us with stories of epic parties, epic sunburns and all the honeymooners who would come to her, separately and distressed, because they didn’t know how to have sex.

In Ireland snow is a rare and beautiful thing, worthy of a James Joyce story. I hope it comes deep and dazzling

My mother-in-law died during the snow of 2010. Sitting by her hospital bed, we kept our own spirits up by telling her what it was like outside: the empty streets, the abandoned cars, people going to lunch and being trapped in restaurants until nightfall, the garden absolutely smothered; the Forty Foot covered in snow and the swimmers STILL swimming; her beloved Glasthule like an Alpine village. People brought the fresh air in with them to visit, snowflakes trapped in their scarves and hats as the shifts changed from morning to afternoon, from evening to night.

She was buried on an snowy day in Enniskerry and it was quite something getting there, but everyone managed without the aid of tyre chains, shoe crampons or emergency supplies of food. The drive was magical, past houses blanketed in white and trees dripping icicles. It was special and unforgettable, just like my mother-in-law.

In Ireland snow is a rare and beautiful thing, worthy of a James Joyce story. I hope it comes deep and dazzling and that it lasts for a while; that everyone enjoys it while they can and survives what it might bring.

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