Friday, 23 March 2007

When 'prolonged heavy showers' become rain, do they throw a party?

Past Paddy's Day, with the first parade of the year behind us, vernal equinox come and gone: It's not winter any more!
Spring and summer can be indistinguishable in Connacht. On late April afternoons, with a gentle easterly breeze holding the high pressure, I have lain back on the hills of Clare, heated by the glorious sun above, warmth beneath seeping into my spine from the limestone slab.
Mark Twain is known to have said, 'The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.'
Ditto for Galway, where we are just as likely to endure three months of rain as two weeks of heatwave.
'Why all this weather nonsense now all of a sudden?' you ask. 'Weather shhmether!' you cry, "tell us something we don't know already!'
Well, that's why I'm on it, because with the coming of spring there arrive the early enquiries from friends for summer visits, asking the inevitable question:
"What's the weather like?"
Then you have stop and think. We here simply accept whatever falls from above, but these people are coming all the way to see you, and the least you can give them is some kind of guide as to what the weather might be like.
Well, let me think: What is it like?
Smilla had her sense of snow, and the Inuits have their pantheon of words for the white stuff, but by god, we give them a good run for their money with our skies.
Kings of the meteorological euphemism, Queens of celestial subtlety, the English and Irish have created a universe of weather terms that are indecipherable to foreigners, and let's be honest, pretty much incomprehensible to ourselves.
Anyone know exactly what they mean by bright? Are we talking clouds, sunshine, or what?
And when did the word 'rain' disappear from forecasts, to be replaced with 'unsettled weather'?
It's not unsettled at all. It's days and days of rain. Just say it baby, we can handle the truth.
Unsettled, me hole.
Is it breezy or blustery? Windy or just blowy? Is it bright or clear? Does that look like a haze or a fog or a mist, or just plain good ol'-fashioned pollution?
Rain? We do rain in all sizes: soft rain, drizzly rain; damp rain; showers (but is that occasional showers, frequent showers, constant showers; heavy showers, or prolonged heavy showers?); moderate rain; constant rain; heavy rain, and top of the Rain Pops, sideways rain, locally enjoyed in the vernacular as 'lashing rain', which conspires to come at you from the horizontal.
Not good.
When a 'prolonged heavy shower' finally gets called rain, does it throw a party?
Personally, I go with the Snapper's definitions. She divides all precipitation into either 'wet-making' or 'non-wet-making', which is really all you need to know.
Temperatures in Ireland's west come aplenty: we offer mild, warm, cool, bitter, chilly, fresh, coolish, and on the odd summer's day 'shplittin' rocks!'
363 days of the year our reality is sunshine and showers. Quite a simple balance, which the media forecasters go and complicate enormously by predicting 'Rain in places, sunshine at times'.
That, I have to say, is my personal favourite, purely because they have gently overlooked the only important pieces of information: which places, at what times?
Oh yes, and any ideas just what an 'odd shower' might be?
An odd shower? Perchance, one in which the rain falls upwards?
You can keep your extremes. I'll admit to being generally happy living between 10 - 20C, or 50 - 60F in the old money.
We rarely have extreme weather here, but we have an extremely large vocabulary with which to describe it.
So yes, the Paddy's Day Parade has come and gone, and when might we see another?
Having received less Arts Council funding than they anticipated, Macnas understandably intend to focus all this year's artistic and financial attention on their Halloween parade, and every Galwegian will look forward to that with glee.
At the time of writing, several major local arts figures are trying to find funding for a Macnas parade during the Arts Festival.
Oh my, how we would miss their Arts Festival Parade.
I can barely remember the last time I went to an Arts Festival event, just as I cannot remember ever missing the Macnas Parade, if I had not already fled the crowds, the traffic jams and jammed-up pubs, filled with people wealthy enough to go to shows that I could not afford to see in my own home town.
As regular as the cuckoo, this colyoom makes the same noises every year.
If you judge the success of a festival on how many sold-out shows it has, Galway's Arts Festival is a humdinger. But if you bring into the equation the festival's relationship with the people of the city, we're stuffed.
The Macnas Parade was a big smoochy kiss on the cheek and 'Thank You!' to all us Galwegians who had suffered another festival season. We took the jams, the noise, litter and queues, and the parade made us feel special.
The Arts Festival that used to, sadly no longer does.
And sadder yet, the leadership of the Arts Festival appear somewhat entrenched, if not a tad stubborn. Yes, their shows are sold out each year. But Galway has gone from being a Festival City to becoming merely a city that has a festival.
Last year, Galway bit back in the shape of Project 06. Seminal figures from Galway's arts scene, including Macnas founder, Paraic Breathnach and Arts Festival founder Ollie Jennings, helped to put together a phenomenally successful 'festival in a festival', bringing life to the streets of Galway, and Galwegian artists, musicians, writers and performers onto the festival stage.
Indeed, what Project 06 succeeded in doing was making Galway City once more the stage for an arts festival.
To those upholding the Arts Festival status quo, I plead, on behalf of geezers like me, the Galwegian in the traffic jam and bus queue: please consider the recommendations laid out in the recent Project 06 report.
No need to tut or wince. We're not having a go at you.
We just want our arts festival back.
Project 06 was neither a fringe festival nor a rival. It was an outburst of artistic and social longing for inclusion in our own arts festival, and you have no reason to ignore that; absolutely none.

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