herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Whisper it ... but aren't you looking forward to Autumn's chill?

The Met Office warned us, and Mother Nature delivered. In spades, she delivered.

Wind and rain had been predicted. What happened was 117kph gusts with driving rain in great straight rods of icy cold wetness.

Leaves that had been clinging on to their parent tree for the last three weeks relinquished their hold and piled up in sodden slushy mounds.

The rain sluiced out of drainpipes and into shores like it was in a competition to see how many litres it could get underground in the shortest time possible.

Residents in an old house got the buckets out, because when the rain and the wind get together to do an Irish version of the monsoon, the driven water finds its way into cracks and under tiles and down chimneys.

Damp patches spread across walls, carpets develop dark water stains and from somewhere in the house comes the sound of drip, drip, dip, if you're lucky.

If you're not lucky, the sound goes drip, drip, drip, splash.

Dogs come in and shake themselves all over everything while smelling like diseased old socks.

Cats won't go outside at all and look at you as if you're a monster when you suggest it.

Yesterday, for early morning drivers, was a matter of negotiating small lakes and avoiding huge branches of trees torn off during the night and littering the road.

Testament to the power of the wind, those branches, many of them with bright green leaves still attached: they were not already half-dead and ready to drop off the trunks.

dramatic

They got reefed off by the sheer gale force power of the wind.

Anybody who was a heavy sleeper may have missed the excitement of it all and may not have known just how dramatic the previous night had been out of doors. The curious thing was how Dubliners reacted to it.

Maybe people around the country were just as positive and upbeat, but I was honestly surprised to encounter, all day, that slightly suffering relish with which we greet the autumn.

I shook hands with the first person into our building, commented on how cold was their hand, and met with a beaming smile: they had cycled to work, they announced, clearly proud of themselves for proving that they're not just fair-weather cyclists.

They're all grown up and ready to handle the autumn. If Mother Nature decides she's going to throw the works at us, having given us a good summer, no problem.

Hibernation isn't an option for us Irish. We may get nostalgic for summer, but we're seasonal people.

We complain about the shortening days, but we really love getting into our homes at dusk, closing out the gathering dark with curtains and setting a match to the fire, if we're lucky enough to have an open fire or a stove.

warmth

We register the condensation on the inside of the windows and burrow into our winter duvet like a hedge-hog, curled up to capture our own warmth.

It's the same with the anoraks and the wind-cheaters.

Zipped up into them, chin tucked down, we feel like Nanook of the North as we go for a stroll along a windswept Dollymount.

We pull out the scarves and the gloves and get suckered into buying handwarmers to fit inside them.

Thick socks and sturdy boots and a brisk walk into a wind that brings tears to our eyes make us feel healthy and warrior-like, deserving of mugs of hot soup the minute the boots are kicked off and we warming up back at home.

That's the marvellous thing about autumn in Ireland. It reminds us of the simple pleasure of fighting off the cold.

It teaches us again the sensual pleasure of comfort foods and drinks.

It re-establishes just how homey and welcoming our homes can be.

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