It’s been a sunny week in Ireland. This is more important than you know.
Summer in Ireland usually lasts about a week. Think about what that does to the average human psychology. You trudge through a grey world for 355 or so days a year, knowing that actual colour will only be available for the briefest of periods, during which you will probably be stuck indoors against your will; in a car; sick, or overseas (fully aware that for the next six months, everyone who knows you will insist on telling you how fabulous the weather was during the time you were away).
For 4 years from 2008, we were subjected to successive Irish monsoons, and summer in Ireland only lasted about a day. The resulting psychosis meant that even more so than usual, on the day the sun came out, mass hysteria bubbled throughout the city of Dublin like freshly poured soda water.
Because when the sun comes out for only one day, people strip off their shirts – even the women (let’s see what Discover Ireland do with that one); weep uncontrollably until they’re let out of offices; argue in public like embittered toddlers; dive head-first into buckets of ice-cream; proudly display horribly burnt arms, shoulders and shins, and generally wander about the capital like confused refugees in an unfamiliar landscape.
But when the weather hangs about a bit, even for a few days – and in particular, when it arrives just that little bit earlier in the season, like May or June, meaning there is still hope that there might be some more of it to come – well. Then, Ireland turns into the place we pretend it is, in all those ads we export abroad. Then, Ireland is full of serenity, philosophy, and Big Ideas. Happy, smiling people discuss contentious issues with laissez-faire hand gestures. Poets rhyme. Singers coo. And writers think.
Everywhere I’ve gone in the past week, throughout Dublin, I’ve seen people sitting down in previously uninhabited spaces – pavements, bushes, forgotten patches of grass, walls – just being.
No headphones. No company. Giving phones and tablets a break; they can’t be seen in the glare anyway. Sometimes a book is open in the lap, but only glanced at briefly every five minutes or so. Mostly, citizens are preoccupied with turning their faces up to the sun, conscious of very little, except that beautifully rare sensation of the sun lying gently over you, like a blanket. They are not thinking of the dangers of sunshine. Perhaps they’re wearing sun factor; perhaps not. But the point is that there is nothing to worry about, under that blanket. There are no deadlines. No bills. No frustrations. There is only a free, warm and happy drug emanating from the sky and seeping in through the skin.
It’s in moments like this that the best ideas seep in. Walking through the city with the sun giving you a hug and the breeze kissing your bare legs – that’s when we open ourselves up to what we see. We notice much more about our fellow residents. It’s not so much Writing Weather, maybe, as Ideas Weather.
On one day walking through Dublin in fine weather, you might see the genesis of fifty short stories, four novels and a thousand short films. It’s on rare days like these (and around Bloomsday too) that the sort of thing James Joyce was supposed to be on about in Ulysses can suddenly make sense; when you get what the mind can do, if it’s given permission, a window, and the best kind of high pressure – the one with isobars.
If this weather lasted, the creative prospects would be endless. But if it lasted forever, we might stop noticing. And wouldn’t that be a rainy day indeed?