Where else only in Ireland would you have names for your sessions? We give them terms of endearment, because the ritual of an Irish session is truly an endearing experience. Take Ophelia for example. Ophelia was a 1 litre bottle of Jameson, 24 can slab of Coors light and 2 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc over fifteen hours for the three of us at home. (Figures are correct at time of going to press. Three people, all of that sauce, fifteen hours.) The liquids may also have been accompanied by a 6 pack of King crisps, a tube of sour cream and onion Pringles and two bars of Dairymilk. No take-away food was injured in the making of this session as all local take-aways had closed for the day due to an outbreak of fear. Met Éireann had propagated this fear, touting severe weather warnings, which transpired to mean ‘a fair aul wind for an hour or so’. Chippers and Chineses battened down the shutters and kept closed until the breeze passed. We dined on crisps washed down by whiskey and watched a trampoline next door levitate in the breeze. Our Twitter feed showed us the ‘real’ effects of the weather. Leaves had blown from a tree near Manorhamilton. A green bin had toppled over outside Durrow. “It’s quare blowy out haigh”, said an eyewitness in Kileshandra.
Emma was our next big ‘mad one’. A prolonged engagement that lasted the best part of the week. It actually turned out to be the best part of the week! Ireland had been granted a duvet week on account of the island finding itself under a thick blanket of snow. Roads were impassible, schools and businesses were closed. Many shops opened for just skeleton hours, enough for weather stricken Gaels to procure shed loads of sliced pans, Tayto (yes, in times of crisis we can’t get enough potato snacks) and wine – all of which are the staples of any self-respecting Irish household.
And who ever thought snow could be so fattening? Cut off from the gym, washing down your Tayto with vino and lard-arsing your way through the entire back catalogue of Netflix was a thoroughly clothes shrinking experience. But the craic was great all the same. There’s no guilt in opening a second bottle at two in the day when it’s Mongolia outside. Anchored by the blazing fireside, dressed in baggy track bottoms, replenishing diminishing glasses of red and singing ballads was the order of the day. Every day for a week.
We (I mean I – my brother was trapped in a house in Ballyfermot and my mother is afraid of snow) trudged around to the local filling station through four foot of snow to drag back bales of briquettes, bottles of merlot and fags for the Mammy. The hour-long queues outside when it opened each day were made up of people like me, all in search of crisps, firing and wine. We were allowed in on a five at a time basis, to quickly grab supplies while trying not to slip on floors sloshing with melting snow, then return to the white landscape of Tymon to make the journey around the corner of the estate and up the hill to home. The scenes were reminiscent of 1980s Russia. Lines of people freezing in the cold for provisions. Except we are Irish and we just used storm Emma as good justification for a domestic session. She came, she snowed, we scooped. It didn’t take Glasnost and Perestroika to bring an end to our panicked queuing, just a thaw.
And so for a while, sessions resumed to the usual shadowing of the religious calendar. Glorious St. Patrick, Good Friday and Easter. That is until the next meteorological mystery struck and the country was slow cooked in a heat wave for two months.
The heat wave became the provenance of BBQs and flip flopped feet, flowy maxis and beer. All the beer. I tried Bud Lite for the first time, the perfect accompaniment to the heat. Unprepared for warm weather, or for any type of weather apparently, the nation tossed and turned on top of the bedclothes with windows cast open, accompanied by the odd insect who was equally as confused at the equatorial temperatures. Only a select few own such things as fans. We stared out at yellowed scrub where our gardens had been all our lives and we talked to anyone who’d listen about the rainless tropic that had become Ireland. We prayed for a light breeze, or even just a few clouds – anything to take the edge off. Some of us went so far as to announce that we’d “murder a bit of rain”. I bumped into neighbours in Dunnes Stores. Like me, they had the same idea of just hanging out in the meat coolers to chill a little. We were just short of having picnics there in the fridges. The kids wanted sleepovers. For the first time on record, Irish people had tans. We even had a hosepipe ban. Men got to drive about with the tops down on their middle-age crisis convertibles. People smiled a lot. Did I mention the beer? We christened the summer ‘the heat wave’. Plain and simple. No need for high falutin lyricism, just ‘the heat wave’. And Bud Lite saw us through it.
I can’t wait for the next one. The entire nation dancing round our kitchens to the tune of an oncoming Twister, should give Riverdance a run for its money.