Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Bring it on, that’s what I say. Bring on your Autumn gales that will bend the trees, ripping leaves from branches, swaying as if directing nature’s traffic.

Let the rains fall in great vertical sheets, so that we can barely see through them. Let it fall on the horizontal too, that notorious Galwegian sideways rain that finds its way under and through your protective clothing.

Let the turloughs rise once more from their seasonal underground retreats, splattering the landscape with a million extra lakes. A quarter of our back garden will disappear under water, and I will stand on the back step, wondering yet again if this year it will creep too close to the house.

Will the apple saplings and 4 year-old Oaky tree survive the flood? Well, younger and weaker they survived the last three Winters, so I’ll feel less fear this year.

I’ve no idea what Galway’s weather is like today, as I’m off visiting the Snapper’s family in England. This colyoom was written last week, while we were enjoying the calm of the blocking high pressure system that brought dry mild foggy weather.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not in a rush to wish away this season. It feels wonderful to leave the jacket behind early in the morning, when I walk Lady Dog. By February I’ll be dreaming of wearing only a t-shirt on those walks. but after the failure of our Summer I’m not in the mood for any more meteorological mediocrity.

Autumn offers us a chance to ease into Winter; a contrast between the long days of heat and brief blips of Winter daylight, but ever since our cool dry June, there has been little more exciting than Summer rain and Autumn breezes.

Indeed, the leaves are barely browning on the trees, compared to their English cousins, already flying through the air in rushing flurries of russet and crinkle.

Normally I love this season. Walking the same bog road four or five times a week with Lady Dog, I’m privileged to see the minuscule changes that each plant undergoes. 

As she stops to investigate another sniffy locale - in the process revealing to me the homes and highways of our prolific local wildlife, by virtue of trampled grasses running under hedges - I look around me and revel in the tranquility: the whisper of the breeze; the singing of the wind on the metal bars of a gate; the ferns, now collapsing under their own weight as they turn brown, when four months ago I watched the same leaves unfurl in a process that marries green lace doilies with party trumpets. 

As the pink towers of willow herb whisp to white strands and fly away, it’s the turn of the thistles to stand tall, bursting with proud purple flowers. Old Man’s Beard and bright orange berries, plump sloes and fading ragwort are all pushed aside by rabid brambles, their burgeoning fruit contrasting perfectly with the bright yellow orchids that carpet the bog at this time of year.

Apart from the blackberries there is little growing out there beyond the bellies of small burrowing creatures, chowing down in preparation for hibernation.

Last year’s wild food harvest was so sumptuous we ended up freezing bags of blackberries and still to this day have a basket full of hazelnuts that should have been eaten months ago.

This year the countryside of the west of Ireland still feels wondrous, as it always will, but there is nothing unusual going on.

Having experienced life in extreme weather conditions elsewhere, I am grateful to be living in a temperate country, where for 300 days of the year sunshine and showers are the norm, while temperatures rarely stray beyond 10º- 20º C.

When I lived in Sonoma County, California, the midday temperature might reach 38º, at night dropping below freezing. I’d be de-icing my car windows before driving to work, and then, as the temperature soared, I’d take off one piece of clothing after another, as I commuted from high in hills shrouded by cooling Pacific fog, down to the baked valley below, parched dry, laying in the lee of the mountains.

It would stop raining in May and you’d not see a drop until November, when this Englishman was to be found dancing with joy and abandon in the car park outside my flat.

“Rain lovely wonderful life-giving rain! Yay! Yay! I love rain!” I sang, as bemused neighbours looked on.

We might dream of blue skies and dry heat, but after 7 months of dryness this soul cried out for seasonal change.

So while I love Autumn’s gently fetid smells and damp fungal wafts, I’m ready for something to hit. If we can’t enjoy real heat from the sun then let’s be cold. If we cannot have dry weather for weeks then let there be downpours.

The dark mornings are so hard, so difficult to deal with, but at the other end of Winter’s  day I don’t mind the long evenings. As dusk falls around teatime, I allow myself to call an earlier end to my day; to turn on the lights, light the fire and prepare casseroles of beef, porky hotpots and Sunday roast dinners that bring the comfort of heat to our bellies.

Truth is, I’ll enjoy whatever nature brings, but here on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, we sometimes experience the thrill of extreme conditions. During that recent Winter of 12 storms, each stronger than the last, there came a gust of wind which felt exactly like an earthquake jolt.

This house shook to its foundations, and several days later, whilst having breakfast in a pub 10 miles away, I heard others talking of the same gust, felt that far away at just the same time.

Feel free in February to remind me of this dreaming of storms. By then I’ll doubtless be regretting such rashness, but now I say:

“Bring it on!”

I’m ready for some big weather, whatever form it takes.

©Charlie Adley

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