Sunday 11 March 2018


It’s mesmerising, nostalgic and distracting. Whirlpools of big fat snowflakes are swirling around outside my window and it’s difficult to concentrate on work.

Today we have been told to stay in our homes from 4pm. To softies like myself who grew up without millions of tons of enemy bombs falling from the sky, this form of national instruction feels as close to wartime as anything might.

Well, ye lads did call what the rest of the planet generally refers to as The Second World War: ‘The Emergency’.

Maybe in Ireland, land of paradox, this emergency is a war and we’re meant to see snow as an enemy.

Not my foe.

Given the rare frequency and low levels we see of snow here in the West of Ireland, it feels benign and beautiful as it falls.

We are not trapped in our home. We’ve just been instructed to stay in, and it feels rather wonderful.

Along with the rest of you I went altogether bananas, amassing gas cylinders, briquettes and enough food to feed a village.

We already had torches, batteries, matches and candles, because we live on the Atlantic seaboard. Storms always come and go, as does electric power.

It would be disingenuous to complain that somehow Met Eireann got it wrong, just because where I live, nothing bad happened. East of the Shannon people were doubtless very thankful for the precautions they took, but while it’s easy to lose ourselves in logistics, here, right now, with the Snapper, my friend Whispering Blue and Lady Dog in the house, not one of us is the slightest bit nervous.

Alone here during Storm Desmond I was, as Biblical types might have it, sore afraid. Apocalyptic tropical rain fell, relentlessly, constantly at full force, from dusk to dawn and into day.

The house was completely surrounded by water. A river appeared at the top left corner, up by the shed, rushing and roaring down a diagonal, cutting the garden in half as it tumbled towards Lough Corrib.

It didn’t have to go far, as the edge of the great lake had by then arisen from underground, unwelcome and threatening, flooding half of the garden.

There, here, there, out of the ground insane jets of water spurted up, appearing randomly and increasingly.

Inside the house I ran around lifting plug boards off the ground, stuffing pillows down the loo, wondering when the hell does one abandon ship, especially if you’re the only one around to look after the place.

In comparison this storm feels gentle; blissful. The only gripe I have is one that comes from that nerdy part of me, which deeply resents the way bad weather is now always called a storm.

The Beaufort scale has its faults, but after a few decades out here on the edge of the Atlantic, I’ve come to trust that storms come in at Force 10, representing something to be reckoned with and respected.

The world screams in a storm.
There are no ambiguities about it.

A few years ago, during a storm force wind, there came a Hurricane Force 12 gust, followed by what I can only describe as a geological punch.

For a nano second it seemed to lift this solid house from its foundations.
The Snapper and I were in the hallway at that moment, both instinctively reaching out and clutching the other.

If we were heading off beyond Kansas, we needed to be together.

Today I am thankful . Even though the media has only tales of blizzard misery, we are safe, warm and never smug. 

Storm Emma is falling in soft white lumps outside, the promised gale force winds coming only in ephemeral gasps and whines.

Lady Dog is a little pissed off that she can’t go for an adventure on the bog, but she hurt her paw a few days ago, so a small walk will suffice.

Beyond canine needs, all humans in this house can today be found standing in front of windows, bewitched by dancing flakes, watching the landscape gradually rise towards the sky.

The day the first flurry fell, the sky cleared at night, allowing the light from the massive moon to be reflected back by the snow. Our rural area of darkness shone with such an intensity we chose to sleep with blinds open, just to fully appreciate the astonishing power of that light.

My obsession with feeding the birds through their Winter hardship has grown to crazed proportions. Neither a twitcher nor an expert, I simply take great pleasure from feeding and watching the little finches, tits and robins.

My old mate Mr. Wagster, a pied wagtail with whom I bonded soon after I arrived here, now shows no fear of me whatsoever. He even introduced me to his wife the other day.

Patches of ground under the feet of all these feeding birds have gradually become bare. Their little talons and prodding beaks have scarified the grass and aerated the soil.

Perfect for a lawn. 

Maybe next year, if I move the feed each day, the birdies could actual cut the lawn over a period of a full winter, whilst keeping themselves alive.

You’re a genius, Adley.

That’s ecological balance and integrity sorted, delaying the moment I need shift my fat arse and use a mower.

Brilliant indeed.

As I watch the snow flakes fall up and down on freezing breezes and nature’s whim, I wonder if I’ll recall my cunning plan, by the time we’ve lived through three more seasons.

©Charlie Adley

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