Sunday, 17 March 2019


The bloke on the radio is all excited about the EU decision to do away with moving the clocks twice a year. When he’s told that each country will choose which time to be in, he gasps and gabbles about how he hopes we stay in Summertime.

Of course he does. It’s Spring and one of the benefits of living on the western edge of a whopping great time zone is that we enjoy ridiculously long summer evenings.

At the risk of being predictably contrary, I have issues with late dusk. Around 10 I’m ready for darkness to fall.

Call me crazy but I like to greet the day when it’s light and go to bed when it’s dark.

Along with just about every Irish person I’ve spoken to, yer man has idealised a romantic midge-free Irish Summer soirĂ©e that very rarely happens.

It’s only natural that as we emerge from darkness we dream of light, but how about looking beyond the next season, and thinking how we’ll feel in January?

If he and the rest of you have your way, those Winter mornings will be so dark for so long, well, b’ain’t natural, s’all I’m sayin’.

All bets are off after last Summer’s months of fierce heat. We all need something to look forward to, and what better than days of sunshine and seaside frolics?

My mind ambles off to the beach, arriving on the sublime sandy shores of Inverin, and the memory of one very strange day.

Back in 2006, when I was a youth worker, we took a group of teenage boys from the estates of Galway City to a community house just off Inverin beach. 

It was a busy place, used by many youth groups, and the idea was that if you visited, you also contributed to the upkeep of the house.

I suggested to my boss that our lads could mow the small patch of lawn and clear up the the long grasses. Was there a mower or a strimmer available?

“That’d be too easy for them, Charlie.” he said calmly, as a smile grew on his lips, “Let’s find them a scythe.”

“Right, a scythe. No bother chief. I’ll just nip down to Scythes’r’Us and pick up a few.”

Behind me a leader of another youth group piped up.

“A scythe you’re after, is it? I live in Spiddal, and there’s a nun who lives behind the church there, and I know she has a scythe.”

My boss looked at me with a clear and simple message in his eyes, so off I went to Spiddal, somewhat tickled by my mission: track down the nun with the scythe.

She was a hard woman to find. At the church I accidentally gatecrashed a christening, and then became lost wandering the backrooms of holy places in which I did not belong.

Eventually I stumbled upon the nun by a vegetable patch, behind a neighbouring house.

She lent me her scythe, which I took back and introduced to the lads, who moaned and complained when they realised there was no motor.

“No lads. You’re going to be both the petrol and the engine.”

Walking away from a chorus of muttered curses, I left them to master ancient farming ways, and help out in the kitchen, where a gigantic communal lunch being was prepared for all the groups.

A couple of hours later, while fifty kids sat and chowed down, I was doing dishes at the sink when one of my lads poked his head through the serving hatch.

“Charlie! Charlie! Can I have some more cereal? Please Charlie! Please?”

“Hello Thomas. Here’s what we’ll do. You go and sit down and wait until everyone has eaten their cereal, and then, if there’s any left, you can come back and ask me again.”


The woman standing next to me, drying the dishes, turned to look at me and in a sheepish whisper asked:

“Oh! Oh! Hope you don’t mind me askin’, but are you a priest?”

I looked at myself through her eyes, dressed in my black T-shirt and black jeans, looking after kids and borrowing scythes from nuns, but all I could do was splutter with laughter.

“No. No, I am not a priest. I’m just a Northwest London Jewish boy!”

“Oh! Ah, oh, I see! Oh, Jewish, did you say? Oh, well, I mean ah, that’s wonderful.”

She appeared to be adrift in surprise.
For some reason I felt mildly irritated

“No, not wonderful. It just is. He was one too, remember. Himself over there in the picture, with the heart?”

My life is strange enough, without having to mess with the clocks twice a year.

Whichever they choose, one thing we know: here in the West of Ireland, on 300 days each year, we’ll experience all of the seasons together.

I’ve been in this house for just 5 weeks now, yet in that time I’ve sat outside in shorts and a T-shirt, soaking up the heat of the afternoon sun. I’ve watched a blizzard rage beyond these windows and shovelled snow off my car.

I’ve seen that disturbing yellow-green baby pooh glow on western clouds, which heralds something odd heading in from the east.

I’ve viscerally felt the approach of those familiar purple-black cloud towers, which bring powerful storms off the Atlantic.

There have been perfectly silent foggy mornings, with muffled sunlight dispersed over hills that have disappeared, and screaming windy nights, when the ancient trees that surround this house have bent and roared and stood defiant.

I have tried and failed to sit outside on windless warm evenings that cook up a midge storm. Nobody’s told the little buggers they’re not meant to be biting yet.

Maybe it’s Global Warming.

Maybe it was ever thus.

Whichever hours are daylight or dark, we'll revel in the wonder and be at the mercy of Connacht’s climate.

©Charlie Adley

No comments: