I packed for Ireland with my mind on my last two trips: I could never quite get warm here. This time, even though it was July, I brought a warm jacket and clothes I could layer, plus a brand-new, purchased-just-for-this-trip rain jacket.
Boy, was I surprised.
Since I arrived it hasn’t rained a single drop. More remarkably, for over a week a heat wave has gripped the island. Daytime highs hovered around 85°. There have hardly even been any clouds or fog, though humidity still dampens the ardor of the sky. It’s blue, but nothing like that clear blue Flagstaff sky.
The last time they had a run of this sort of fine weather was in 2006.
My first day here, our friend Maeve said, “If we have a warm day, we usually just push up the sleeves of our sweaters and complain about the heat.” Knowing it won’t last, there’s no reason to bother with the nonsense of a different wardrobe; besides taking up precious space in your small closet, those sundresses, shorts, tank tops and bikinis would be out of fashion by the time you got to wear them again.
RTE (Radio Telefís Éireann) announcers seemed fixated on nudity, making jokes about topless broadcasting. One of them interviewed the head of the Irish Naturist Association, which is campaigning for designated nude beaches around the country. A “man-on-the-street” poll of a handful of people on their opinion of nude beaches returned tolerant responses: “Fine for them, but I’m not interested,” except for one elderly gentleman who thought it was “disgusting.”
The INA website announces:
To celebrate the INA’s 50th anniversary there will be a Naturist Gathering on the naturist beach at Sallymount, south of Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow on Sunday 4th August. All are welcome!
I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to swim in Ireland’s freezing coastal waters, much less in anything but a full-on neoprene wetsuit.
From Dursey to Garnish, over hills and rocks, past panting, overheated sheep, we sweated along the Beara Way, a trek that’s part of the national trail system. We’d planned to take the cable car (the only one in Ireland) to Dursey Island, but it was shut down for repairs. Just as well, since it runs high above a stretch of water between the main peninsula and the island for ten heart-stopping minutes, transporting tourists and locals, sheep and cows alike. Steep cliffs and turbulent waters below make a boat crossing even more treacherous than being strung across the water like laundry between two tenement buildings.
A little ways along the road, we spotted the retired cable car in use as a chicken coop. No sense in it going to waste.
When we arrived at our bed and breakfast in Allihies, our host Veronica O’Sullivan was up to her elbows in dough, a bit flushed with the heat of the oven and the effort of making her daily batch of brown bread (delicious stuff, that). She didn’t complain of the heat, just took note and continued on with her day.
I’d guess that the thousands of kilometers of stone walls that line the roads were built the same way. Every little task and every great triumph in the cities and villages all across Ireland seem to have been accomplished by sensible forethought, followed by steady, deliberate toil over generations of habitation. Neither this, nor that: sun, rain or fog, weather conditions are just the circumstances you’re handed. You go about your business, regardless, though perhaps in a bit higher spirits when the sun is shining.
Back in Dublin we walked to the Cobblestone Pub on King Street where we got a warm welcome for the old-time music session. Bill Whelan, Maeve Toner, Ben Keogh, Dermie Diamond, and my husband, Michael played the foot-stomping, pane-rattling music for hours, while I occupied the sacred space on the edge of the circle, and was reminded of Emmylou Harris’s description of breathing in the “hillbilly dust” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. An ancient black dial telephone occupies a corner of the pub’s front window. It never seems to ring, but if it did, I imagine it would be someone calling from 1963 to get a progress report on the last fifty years, and to ask after the weather.