Our weather is not as dismal as our attitude to it

21st April 2000

The weather, as we know, is the last refuge of the tongue-tied. If you’ve got nothing else to say you can always comment on the weather.

Not only that, but it also a source of some agreement. In Ireland, a consensus has arisen that our weather is bad. This is something I find very annoying because I happen to think that our weather is excellent.

There are very few climates across the world as conducive to life as ours. We have a very unusual set of circumstances. Although sited not far off the Arctic, the prevailing winds come from the tropics dousing us, as is tediously observed, in rain and preserving us from the cold.

Thus Derry spends its winter in sublime temperate damp while Moscow, only 40 miles more northerly, spends yuletide at 30 degrees below zero. Now that’s something to complain about.

In summer, while the people of the mediterranean are stuck indoors and indolent by the suffocating heat, we are cooled by the North Atlantic breeze.

But is anybody grateful for being spared these excesses of climate? Oh no. It’s just one long whinge from January to December; just a continual bitch about the rain and the cold followed by a pathetic envy of Spanish weather or wherever.

The problem has less to do with the weather than with our lifestyle wish-list. How we’d love to stroll in the evening heat just like the Europeans do and enjoy the cafe culture. Then in winter we could gather after a day’s skiing around the brazier drinking hot wine and watch each other exhale in atmospheric little puffs.

Spare me.

Do we have to buy everything we’re sold on telly? Are faraway hills always greener? (very unlikely in this case).

I worry about the kids. Our kids will never have any self-confidence if people keep harping on at how bad things are here and how great it is somewhere else. Even anywhere else.

There’s more to life than holidays. Can people not see how beautiful Ireland is; how much more interesting our habitat is than the arid landscapes of sand and snow? And the beauty of our countryside is intimately linked with our weather.

Maybe the tide is turning. It is heartening to see the new interest in hill-walking and all things outdoor. Ireland has glorious weather for walking – cool and moist. Contrary to popular prejudice we do get dry days.

And when you kit yourself properly you can go out on any day – if you can get over the spoilt brat complex we seem to have gotten ourselves into.

It’s hilarious to see people in town on Saturday night dressed up for Ibiza when St Patrick’s Day has just gone. Their backs are up in a hump and the goose pimples are visible from a hundred paces. A good blast of wind coming up from the Custom House and you can actually see the hypothermia setting in.

What annoys me most is how my fellow journalists moan on about the weather as if it were part of our common misfortune. Why go on about it all the time? If it’s so bad why don’t they leave the country? One thing for certain is that talking about the weather won’t change it. So let’s live with what we have and maybe even learn to like it. Life is a lot easier that way.

Next time you’re at a bus stop and it starts to rain just hum ‘Forty Shades of Green’ to yourself.

Soft day, thank god.