Sunday, 2 October 2016


 All photos by The Snapper.

The heather! Thanks for that heather!

Now fading into the incoming darkness, the heather on Connemara’s bogs this year has been utterly magnificent. To whatever combination of weather and insect life brought about such a splendid natural carpet, I say:

“Thank you. It was breathtaking.”

The seasons here in the West of Ireland are heralded by changes in flower colour. At the first sign of Spring, celandine’s sunburst flowers announce the arrival of the yellow season, followed by the supernovae of primroses, exploding yellow stars of light and powerful intent.

Despite unwelcome hordes of noxious ragwort, the odd dandelion and stray buttercup, the yellows are long gone, superseded as always by the purples. Incredibly prolific, swathes of pale purple willow herb lined the bohreens, tussling and rustling with the cow parsley that also did so well this year.

Magical wands of purple loosestrife rise up from river banks and ditches, while hundreds of different types of thistle burst Emperor purple from tiny short spiky ouch that hurt stems, to vast soft towering varieties that appear to defy gravity.

Instead of dreading the cold months, I look forward to different habits. No more obsessive watching of the weather forecast, trying to work out when it might be dry enough for long enough to mow the lawn, I’ll just empty the ash bucket and build a fresh fire.

My lovely sister cannot stand the short dark days. She dreams of Los Angeles, where seasons come and go without anyone noticing, but I’m more than fond of the seasons: I need them. 

Sometimes I can build up such a head of steam, I can’t see my need to slow down. Nothing forces you to put on the brakes better than a storm force wind and three days of solid rain.

It’s nature’s way of telling us to keep warm, eat lots of high fat foods and sleep a lot. Given the chance I’d happily hibernate. We’re hairy mammals and that’s what a lot of them do, but oh no, we can’t. 

In an effort to try and overpower the darkness, we’ve mashed together the Pagan and Christian and created a commercial behemoth that is still, thankfully, way too far away to mention.

What were we thinking? Was it some kind of human-wide hubris? Did we imagine that we can ignore our natural rhythms, by being the busiest we are all year, at a time when we need to be calm?

My sister and I share something vital. Although she might choose California while I prefer Connemara, we both love being outside. I wonder if it’s something to do with our biological need to soak up vitamin D, to stave off depression.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with the dark months. The Snapper revels in the glitter and sparkle of ‘Strictly Come Dancing', greeting its return to our screens as an ancient might the solstice sunrise.

It’s a marker in the year, a chance to forget your woes and immerse yourself in light, pizazz, music and laughter.

Although The Snapper also enjoys football, I suspect she watches a lot more of it than she might choose to, so in return I have chosen to embrace this TV reality competition, so that we might enjoy it together.

Just as well really, as we’ll be watching it seven days a week throughout its entirety.

There’s the Saturday show itself, the Sunday Results Show and then each day Monday to Friday we record and watch Zoë Balls’ ‘It Takes Two.’ By the time we’re back on the next Saturday show’s recap of last week’s dances, we’ve seen those moves kaleventy bazillon times.

While a lesser scribbler might not be able to take it, your colyoomist smiles on. ‘Strictly’ is benign and camp, while unlike other reality shows, its contestants have to make an extraordinary effort to become fit, and then dandy on their toes, hand extensions and head back dwaaahhling and oh my good god, it’s got to me.

You cannot consume that much reality show medicine without side effects, and one most unwelcome phenomenon that ‘Strictly’ delivers every year is that bloomin’ signature theme jingle riff, which becomes permanently implanted in my brainbox for months, to the extent that I find myself humming it in the queue at the Post Office, like an anachronistic extra from ‘The Full Monty.’

Ah, whatever helps us both enjoy the darker months, that’s good enough for me, and while I’m feeling all soppy I realise I was a little unfair about her football viewing.

While I was away in England during the Euros, she watched three consecutive games in one day, and often I’ll head to bed after the Chelsea game on Match of The Day, knowing full well she’ll carry on and watch Middlesborough v Stoke and Watford v West Bromwich Albion on her tod.

A miracle on legs at 87, my mother quite enjoys the Winter. Temperatures over 30 degrees don’t suit octogenarians at all. She’s very happy to draw the curtains, switch on her fire, turn the central heating up to levels that might make me melt, and sit with her cat on her lap, absorbed by a political debate on the tele (that’s my mother, by the way, not the cat). Referring to a World War maxim, she calls it ‘digging in’ and says it with a smile on her voice.

As Autumn rolls in with its Atlantic gales and moldy fungal scents, try not to feel down. It’s plain daft to choose to dislike a quarter of the year. 

Instead embrace all the wonderful contrasts that our planet’s angle and orbit allows; enjoy all four seasons, because they’re going to happen anyway.

©Charlie Adley

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