Thursday 31 July 2008

It's the summer in Ireland, and it's raining

I'm here a day and enjoying the rain: the luxury of a summer spent in the sun. It's Irish summer rain: not cold, but mild, soft, relentless. Everything green here loves it (also my snot). The trees and grasses and hedges and wild things have grown so much this year. I took a walk by the bank of the canal, and skipped off by some horses coralled in a small strip of field. All ages, mares and foals. I sang to see if they'd be interested. They were. They ran up to listen. One of them, a chestnut brown mare, got into the groove, shook her mane around and edged away a white, smaller mare, who wanted to find out what was going on. Edged her away and came back to listen. Selfish bitch, but beautiful. I sang a few melodic lines and made my way off. Cows are also a good audience, though less discriminate.

There were some small waterfalls, gushing hard. The sounds and smells and pictures were intoxicating. This countryside makes me feel so good. Especially at the start of the walk, some pressing thoughts came to be worked out, insisting on themselves, eventually they just skulked off. Wild flowers got picked. These ones. I know, the horses would have been better, or the waterfalls, but I didn't bring my camera. I've been using digital for the past month or so. Digging it.

My parents are desperate for a holiday, out from under the wet sky. The thing about Irish weather is its changeability. Two fine days in the summer trigger hope, Irish people are amazing hopers, and then the rain comes again. Some people, like me, find this unpredictability exciting; some, like my friend Sile, just love the rain; and others (probably everybody else) long for the sun.

I remember when I used to live in Dublin, I'd look out the window and watch the weather change over and over in the space of an hour, wondering what to wear. Layers, we say in Ireland, confidently. My friend Caroline in Barcelona says that Ireland is the only place she has ever heard such wisdom. That surprised me. Maybe it's one of those cultural assumptions, like blackfaced minstrels or topless sunbathing, that isn't questioned much by members of the home culture. Either way, I've never been one for layers of clothes, except in Denmark or Norway or New York in the searing, bloodyminded cold. In that kind of weather, you just wear everything you can fit on.

There are different kinds of cold though, as there are different kinds of heat. Barcelona can get really very humid, which I found surprising, given its desert-like scrubby landscape, which of course you can barely see, so asphalted and intensely built is the city. You can see it in the parks, mostly, and in some deserted lots along the less touristy beaches: what grows naturally, what grows wild, what is local, are cactii and thick leaved creatures capable of holding water and surviving the hard sun.

Danish winter is humid, cold and goes on for many months. Norwegian winter is bone dry and cold and goes on for most of the year (depending on how far up you find yourself). I found the winter in New York to be cold and dry also, but I hear it gets much much colder than the one I experienced. I loved the availability of sky on the roof of the building where I lived in Brooklyn, I need that in a city. I loved the blueness of the sky, every other day. I went up there, to dance about in the freezing cold, the only time of the year I was interested in sunbathing.

I also had a roof terrace in Barcelona, it was surprisingly cool up there in the evenings and even during the day, much cooler than my room two floors below. I loved the street, the different languages I heard every day passing by my window, the way my friends there used to drop by unannounced, calling up to my window from the street, the scooters waking me up in the morning like they were driving through my room, the pla├ža life, the availability and visibility of human social life, the beat of the life in that city. I didn't write much there, mostly short clear ideas written on post-its. My thinking was mostly visual. I took a lot of pictures and video. I've been editing, working on something I'll be showing in the North in September. I'm nearly done: and going to post some samples on my site soon.

Irish weather is much milder than any of these places, at either end of the spectrum. But in Scandinavia they have saunas, some of the most beautiful rooms I have ever been in were art deco and modernist saunas in Copenhagen, and in Spain they have the siesta.

What do we have here? Lush, relentless green beauty. And chartered package holidays, to places of cheap heat, for a week or two.

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