THE claps of thunder were so loud one recent night that I thought a lorry had crashed into the house across the road – again – until lightning lit up the river just beyond our yard.
At one point, it rose so high that I feared it might run off with 'River Run'. It did in 1947, washing away the lean-to. The floods that year were accompanied by a financial outlook as bleak as today's, as my father reminded me, with a story about that fearsome February and a £5 note.
He was a young boy growing up in Co Offaly that spring, which saw the worst weather in Ireland in 40 years. Poverty exposes you to the brunt of the elements, as he learnt. His father was a heavy gambler, particularly on greyhounds running for the Waterloo Cup, and lacking a winning streak. His big butchering business was ruined by 1940, thanks to falling cattle prices.
But that February my father's mother had a £5 note, an astronomical sum of money when you consider that the price of an average house was £400. It was a gift from her brother, John, then parish priest of Dunboyne. He kept an eye on his delicate sister, who had been disowned for marrying a dreamy-eyed man twice her age.
So my father set off with his mother on the two-mile walk from their rented home in Ballycrystal to the village of Geashill, a veritable Manhattan of the midlands, with its pubs and shops.
I can imagine their excitement, after weeks of low-lying hunger, at the prospect of all the provisions that precious paper would buy.
They passed the Laceys, who were big horse people, and the Donaldsons, where everyone went for sporting events because they owned the only radio for miles. It wasn't until they reached 'Bun' Dunnes' house (so-called because he was just five foot tall) that his mother realised that she had lost the note. Shaking with devastation, she rechecked her pockets in vain. There was nothing for it but to walk back the mile they'd come, looking for a faded piece of paper in the falling snow.
Where the thought of treats to come had warmed them, now the wind blew bitter through thin coats. It was easy to keep their eyes trained on the ground, for that was where their hearts lay. And then – against all odds – they found the £5 note.
My father said it was like they'd gone to heaven when they saw it, lying in a pothole. It's over six decades since that day, but my father swears he could still drive to the exact spot on the byroad.
So keep your eyes open, if you can't keep your chin up. And even if spring isn't in the air, it might find its way into your step.