Monday, 23 June 2008

Is the pint as long as the shower, or the other way around?

Every time Angel moves just the slightest bit, his dog Merlin twitches with anticipation.
Is this it?Are we going for a walk?
Mocking Merlin’s response to Angel’s move for the kettle, we both nevertheless respond immediately to the dog’s request, and look out of the window.
The Galway afternoon sky holds a million possibilities. Light grey clouds float above dark grey clouds, hanging below the canopy of the billowing thunderstorm anvil.
Scattered cracked saucers of blue show through, and the rain has abated.
Well, at least, for the moment.
We three look each other in the eyes, and the two humans, being soft gits as much as they are men of honour, give in to the fantastically manipulative eyes of the dog.
“I’ll walk out with you, and head home.”
“Okay mate. Yes, Merlin.”
Before we reach the bottom of his cul-de-sac, the rain begins to fall.
It’s only a shower, and if I’m walking I’m walking.
Walking is good. Walking is fine.
Down the hill, and the rain is holding slight.
Good thing too, really, because these drops are not soft. These drops are not mist.
These drops are Galway Summer Style‘n’Fashion Mother of All Wet-Making Drops; soaking, permeating, getting down to business drops that have one purpose in life: to impregnate cotton towards flesh.
Being a bloke means that you are not allowed to stop and do your coat up. You have to keep walking as you do it, or otherwise risk being misinterpreted as a man of less than wholesome substance.
So whilst moving at full Bear Adley speed, my hands are flailing below my line of vision. To a stranger it must look as if I’m trying to read my wax cotton jacket in braille.
(stat)As I struggle to wrap the collar flap around my oak tree neck and snap the flap’s male rivet onto the little female metal rivet, without looking down like a sensible human being, and see what I’m doing, lest I lose a moment of momentum, I’m more than a little taken aback when the driver of the car right in front of me, stuck in a jam on the Bishop O’Donnell (I know, I know, a jam? There? Hard to believe) suddenly winds down his window, points out and yells:(stat)
“Chaaarlie Chaaaaarlie Chaaaarlieeeee Adley. I seee you-oooouu!”
Smiling as I recognise the nutty Loganberry, I feel completely irrational embarrassment that he saw me struggling to do up my jacket, when I know that
1) He didn’t.
2) He wouldn’t care if he had.
3) He’d have bigger and better fish to fry if he really wanted to embarrass me.
Facing up the hill towards the roundabout, I stomp onwards, now zipped up, buttoned up, collared up and ready to get going.
Even after 16 years as a Blow-in, it still feels good to be spotted by an Irish friend in Ireland.
Oh, now here comes the rain. And didn’t I learn something useful, in those 16 years, beyond my affected Irish use of ‘didn’t’ and ‘wouldn’t’?
Sure, (that too!) didn’t I learn how to deal with the rain?
Didn’t I learn to take shelter, because for 360 days of the year, the weather in the west of Ireland includes sunshine and showers. Didn’t I learn that these showers were the reason everybody clears the streets to take shelter in shops, and that a shower lasting just exactly the same time it takes to pour and drink a pint of the black, wasn’t the shower itself the very reason that a barrel arrived in the shop?
So when you arrive in a tiny west of Ireland town that has two shops and 47 pubs, you can blame the nature of the shower.
I take shelter under a bush at the side of the road, feeling smug and smiling in my ‘I’m not a local, but hey, I’m no tourist either’ kind of way. The rain stops, and I emerge into the steamy sunshine, walking on, with my head held high, my chin shiny and dry.
And then the rain really comes. The universe sensed my hubris, and now I will be truly punished.
There is no ambiguity about this sky. It is black; heavy, black and low.
As I round the almost-crest of the hill by the roundabout, the rain kicks up two gears, turing into flash flood sub-tropical downpour.
I know it can’t last at this level long, because we’re temperate in these parts, but shelter is now out of the question. I am going to get drenched to the skin, and, well, that’s okay.
The Irish have a word for it. You have to get drownded once in a while.
The Irish get drownded.
The English get drenched.
They both hit my mark
My hair is sodden, dripping floods into my eyes, and now I cannot see through my glasses, which are steamed and under torrential attack. Crossing by the lights at the top of Taylor’s Hill, I head down Threadneedle Road towards the Prom, repeating over and over to myself, deranged, not to miss the footpath out to the left.
Onwards, onwards, until I lift up my glasses and peer out to see I have, of course, missed the bloody footpath.
Turning around and heading back up the hill, I stumble into what I think is the footpath, which turns out instead to be a block of flats, and then the rain goes into overdrive again, and the flat shabby modern architecture offers not an inch of shelter.
Now I’m in the zone. Lollopping back down towards the Prom, I am slapping flappy-dappy my floppy wet jeans around with insane abandon, yelling laughing out loud crazy not giving a damn.
“Okay!” I yell to the skies,”You’ve shown me who is boss, and I accept. I am worthless. Thank you!”
But even that fleeting moment of freedom is taken from me, for as I turn into my own tiny street, the sun comes out, clouds disappear, and I am steaming in my sodden clothes under a hot clear blue sky before I turn the key in my front door lock.

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