A full seven weeks behind schedule, and perhaps having grown tired of maintaining an icy grip on central Europe since Christmas, or perhaps settling to spread its brilliant white duvet a little further west, winter’s procession eventually arrived on our shores in late January.
To date we’d experienced one of the mildest and driest early winter periods on record, with daily temperatures 1.5 degrees above Long Term Average and cumulative rainfall a whopping 75-80% down on Long Term Average for the time of year.
Noteworthy also is that there was a full seven week hiatus between Conor’s Christmas Eve snarl and the Doris’ arrival last Saturday.
And such is winter in Ireland where we are well acquainted with such seasonal vagaries. It is not by chance that the ancient roman designation for this tiny little island tethering on Europe’s north-western edge was Hibernia, Place of winter.
In Ireland we do winter relatively well: we’ve learned to make the most of a season which starts at Samhain (Halloween), sometimes does not end till May, and at times will backslide just as we get set for the June summer bank holiday.
In Ireland winter is not so much a season as it is a state of mind, and as Hibernians perhaps we were preconditioned in our ancient conception: prenatally prepared to persist and persevere with those prolonged periods of darkness and dampness we experience annually. And as is the case with all indigenously constrained people we are genetically hardwired with the full knowledge of our ancient state even though an appreciation and understanding of that self same state is often sadly lacking.
We’ve learned to celebrate the darkness and the dampness. We’ve learned to do those interminable wet winter nights and the relentless Atlantic storm fronts; we’ve learned to do the endless days of dark slate greys and naked branches for months on end. We’ve learned the hunger and starvation of history, just as we learned the insatiable thirst for freedom and self determination.
We celebrate the dead, and we’ve learned to consider one good sunburning day in July a reasonable summer.
We do Christmas to. We do it better than most and, if truth be told, we do it longer than anyone else. This may be out of our centuries long adherence to religious rite whence we are willing to journey with startled shepherds one night only to gladly follow in the footsteps of seers and magi 12 nights later; or it may be as a result of our national addiction to the twentieth century’s developing an annual tinsel dressed splurge with all the accompanying jingly and tingly bright-lighted feel-good Ho! Ho! ho’s!; or perhaps it has more to do with our negating the cyclic oppressive and depressive darkness of winter by deciding to celebrate if for no other reason than the celebration itself; or maybe it is a national brew of all of these things.
Yes, in Ireland we know how to do winter. It’s in our genes. We are a chronic race; occasionally oppressive, periodically disordered, cytized, fibrized, haemized and chromazed and always bloody colourful. We are ancient Hibernians, and many a modern nation wouldst stake a claim to our heritage and bloodline, but it’s just not in their genes.
Winter arrived late this year. The unseasonably early grass growth is halted in its tracks. The burgeoning daffodils are slowed, and the remaining remnants of last autumn’s leaf litter is well and truly scattered at last. Temperatures are back to and below normal, whilst rainfall levels are back to and above normal.
Yesterday was our final visit to our old plot, and in winter we learn to plot. We’ve taken everything we needed and intended to take from it during the last 6 weeks and relocated it to our new plot. Our old allotment plot is finally laid bare just as we discover that our new plot is susceptible to water-logging, and we’ve come to realize that winter would be a dreary existence were it not for warm summer memories.
Winter arrived late this year and we’ve no time to hibernate. We learn. We move on.