Saturday 1 October 2016

First blast of summer sun sparks some spring fever

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30

The Calm after the Storm asReflected with these Cattle at Balrath Co Meath Pic Seamus Farrelly
The Calm after the Storm asReflected with these Cattle at Balrath Co Meath Pic Seamus Farrelly

The arrival of bright calm warm weather has driven lots of people, including myself, outdoors to tackle some spring cleaning. Though spring is a bit of a misnomer as mid-summer is only days away.

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My cleaning activity has been particularly frantic this year and I can't make up my mind whether this is trying to make up for the late start or if I'm petrified that the fine spell is going to whipped away from us again.

Falling out the door of one shed where the cobwebs were strung like jungle vines was a collection of the girls' trikes, bikes and other toys which they have outgrown. I power washed them, parked back up those I was too sentimental to part with and took the others that are still in good working order to the St Vincent de Paul shop.

There was a lot of dust, mice droppings, various spilt jars, rodent-chewed bags, stuffing from a birthday party piñata, dirty feathers, twigs and miscellaneous organic and inorganic material of a jackdaw's nest which fell down, along with squashed brown cardboard boxes which once proudly housed various new domestic goods. It's not a glitzy list.

The truth is that the only reason I spring clean is as a preparation for painting; the kind that involves walls and doors rather than landscapes. And it's usually easier to paint outdoor things as there are fewer things that have to first be moved out of the way.

This time of year, if it's bright and sunny from very early, I would sometimes get up around 6am and do a couple of hours painting before the rest of the world gets going. I feel I'm getting a great run at the day.

Almost as far back as I can remember I have loved to paint. Few things in life give me such a sense of achievement. Though I recognise this enthusiasm might wear off if I was doing it every day.

Of course, good weather is not all about getting chores done. There are few things more pleasurable than the sharing of food. Is it my imagination or could food eaten outdoors really taste better?

People are talking more. Of course people talk every day when they meet. But where they would previously have moved on as soon as politely possible, they are now stopping. Especially if it means they can stand in the sun to soak up the rays.

Like many other inhabitants of the animal kingdom the sun on our backs brings a smile to our faces.

Radical

Reflecting our lighter spirits, we have been reaching for brighter clothes. In the south, even the silage bales are getting in on the act with a new Wrap It Pink campaign whereby Dairygold have launched pink silage wrap and a donation will be made to the Irish Cancer Society from the sale of each roll.

Some farmers may find it a bit radical and stick with the traditional black but I've heard others say it's just perfect for the girls AKA the cows.

Driving through a nearby village one fine afternoon last week, I spotted a man, bare on top except for a bit around the headland, who had made a sun-lounger from an armchair and coffee table on the footpath outside his house, rolled up his trouser legs and shirt sleeves who was lying relaxed, eyes closed, soaking up the rays.

It was a picture of bliss, Irish style.

People are also moving about more. They have taken to the streets and the parks and woods and obviously working the land. One day, we went for a walk in Lough Boora Discovery Park in Offaly. It really is a natural jewel of the midlands and they had added a couple of new attractions since our last visit including the A-maze-in Willow World. Two pleasurable hours went by without our noticing.

Usually when I go for a walk on the farm it's a case of head down and bull on. One evening last week, as dusk was falling, I headed off at a more leisurely pace and, right on my doorstep, I spotted things I had never seen before.

Starlings perched on electricity wires is a sight I am familiar with but, this time, I really noticed how they are arranged, evenly spaced and congregated either side of electricity poles with fewer towards the middle of the wires.

Could it be like the parish dance of old with the boys lined up on one side

 

 

and the girls on the other?

Or that it is bouncier and thus less comfortable as you move further away from the poles?

Apparently, it has been found that the distances between starlings on a wire follow the same pattern as the spaces separating parked cars - which I guess means that we use the same sensory mechanism.

As we walked by, their incessant chattering suddenly hushed, they took off almost simultaneously, flocked briefly, wheeled in unison, trailing off into a wispy stream, before bunching up again and landing in a coordinated fashion. They then redistributed themselves back either side of the electricity poles for the chatter to begin again.

Speaking of boys and girls, amidst the eau de slurré, there is a discernible whiff of love in the air.

Last week, John Murray had a good chat on RTE radio with Fiona Looney and Mairéad Lavery about what makes a good wife.

One of the tips is that you should let him feel he is the boss while, of course, retaining the reins yourself. My pal Lorna Sixsmith will soon publish a book on how to be a good farm wife.

Well, my farmer showed last week what it takes to be a good husband.

I don't usually have tea at breakfast while he does. But, this particular morning I needed a bit of caffeine. As I reached for a tea bag, I noticed that Robin was already drinking from his mug and passed a sarcastic "thanks for making mine".

"On 364 days of a year, you do one thing and I'm supposed to know the day you are going to be different?" he replied, incredulously.

We both laughed.

There are few things more important in marriage than being able to laugh together.

afitzgerald@ independent.ie

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