Writing Weather


Irish woodland in Tuamgrany County Clare

Irish woodland, all dappled and delightful

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.

Liffey river in Dublin on a sunny day

The Liffey in Dublin, looking east

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.

Sneem Co Kerry in the sunshineIt’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?

  20 comments for “Writing Weather

  1. June 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    This is so good to read after waking up to a 7th rainy day in a row in a not usually rainy city. Excellent writing.


    • June 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you Zoey! We will no doubt resume a more cloudy and cynical transmission next week, though 😉


  2. June 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks, Tara. So much makes sense to me now, after reading this. I never thought Irish writers were short on words, now I find it’s just the lack of sun and the crunch when it does eventually show up. All those writerly brains raiding the ether for inspiration at once must create some kind of mental sonic boom!


    • June 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Oh, don’t thank me, Richard. Thank the cursed people who first arrived on this unloved island and decided, purely because it had loads of trees, rivers and lakes, that it might be a good place to settle, despite the fact that it was raining that day. They then proceeded to conveniently ignore all the other rainy days and produce an anomalous nation with nothing else to do but sit down and tell stories! Still, at least we got a few good writers out of it!


  3. June 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I never realized Ireland had this kind of weather! Many of the Irish writings I’ve read make more sense to me now..deep and dark. Thank you.


    • June 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      You’re more than welcome! The weather here has to be good for something. Next week I’m sure I’ll have something wonderfully depressing on the agenda!


      • June 19, 2014 at 4:35 pm

        Hahaha! No, I’ve read wonderful Irish writings. Profound. You give me a better understanding of the authors, of which I thank you. You are NOT depressing. 🙂


        • June 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

          Gosh, don’t say that too loud. If they hear there’s an optimist in the pack, I’ll get deported from the country 😉


  4. June 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  5. June 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I’ve been doing writer-type stuff in the garden two days running now! Cornwall’s very like Ireland in that respect in that we’re always surprised to get a run at multiple consecutive days of sunshine, despite our tourist hype and southerly climes – the Atlantic has a lot to answer for…
    And you’re right – too much of a good thing makes you ungrateful 😉


    • June 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      Isn’t the Atlantic an awful yoke indeed? Between the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic in general, and the tendency of the sky to fall out of itself at the slightest puff of wind, it’s not so much four seasons in one day, as four mood swings in one day. I spend my time permanently exhausted from it.


  6. Ali Isaac
    June 20, 2014 at 1:36 am

    So true Tara! The weather has been fab here in Co Cavan too, but unfortunately every day has conspired against me to keep me out of it, in complete opposition to my plans! Ive barely had time to appreciate it… how can that be?!!

    Well now the kids have begun their school hols… and we all know what that means; a blanket of gloom and damp until September!

    Oh well… such is life! Better make hay… ( and believe me, in Cavan theres a frenzy of hay making right now! We know how to have a good time out here in the sticks lol!) 😁


    • June 20, 2014 at 10:26 am

      The exams aren’t over for a few days yet, Ali, so we’re due a tiny bit more sunshine to go, before the deluge… I’d love to be in Cavan right now instead of the city. It’s so beautiful up there.
      How is it anyway that all my memories of childhood summers are sunny? What happened to the 87% of the time I was stuck sitting in the window with a book, looking out at the rain?!


      • Ali Isaac
        June 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm

        Well you probably didnt notice the rain if you had your nose stuck in a book! Funny… we may not have had sunshine, or money for that matter as kids, but we always had books…


  7. June 24, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    But if the hot weather lasted forever, Ireland would turn into Jamaica, and then everybody would stop philosophising and start playing cricket… James Joyce would have written Finnegan’s Wicket…I have no idea where I’m going with this. The heat has turned my brain.


    • June 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      No, no Elaine…the heat has EXPANDED your brain into hitherto uncharted dimensions where literary greats swim naked with dreadlocked dolphins and cry bitterly over unnational sports. It’s a beautiful thing. You should embrace it.


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