Friday 28 October 2016

Ian O'Doherty: Surely hibernation is the answer to all this gloom?

Published 27/10/2012 | 06:00

'God, what's the matter with you now." That was the wife talking to me the other day and yes, I noticed the heavy sarcasm appointed to the word "now".

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Honestly, it was as if she was implying that I seem to exist in a state of perpetual grumpiness.

I replied that there was nothing wrong with me now per se. It was just that I was generally a bit down in the dumps.

And seeing as I had no specific reason to be in a huff other than the usual suspects that have us all feeling down ie a) the economy; b) lack of money and; c) may I refer you back to b), I didn't have any specific reason to be uncheerful.

But actually, I did. I just didn't want to openly acknowledge it.

It was the sun.

Or rather, the lack of it.

The reason I went into such a weird, seemingly inexplicable funk was that I had just put the lights on and the clock was barely approaching five.

Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed at having to pay for the extra use of electricity. After all, we may be in a bad way but we're not at Greece-levels of poverty. Well, not yet anyway.

No, it was just the terrible, crushing sense that we're now sliding into winter and all the horrors that particular season holds for us.

I know some people who actually love winter.

They love wrapping up well and going for bracing walks.

These are the kind of people who probably wear matching jumpers and like drinking cocoa with marshmallows in them and, as such, they should be avoided at all costs.


I prefer to wallow in a pit of self-pity, lamenting the fact that it is cold, wet and miserable. With the possibility of snow.


Unlike most of my other irrational foibles, this feeling hasn't emerged as I get older, oh no.

In fact, from the time I was a kid I bloody hated this time of year and I know where I got this feeling from -- my mother.

From the end of September, Ma would become increasingly downcast and prone to staring out the back window as the rain pounded the garden, looking like someone from a moody Scandinavian movie waiting for her trawlerman husband to come home from the swelling seas.

At the time, we all thought she was just being mopey and a bit of a pain.

But if she was still alive it would, these days, be diagnosed as SAD, the seasonally affected disorder that afflicts so many of us.

This is a form of mild depression brought on by the lack of sunlight and it brings with it a sense of helplessness and the feeling of just. . . well, just feeling forlorn, to be honest.

So that was her gift to me -- a dread of winter that lasts to this day and which, if anything, seems to get worse with each passing year.

I'm looking out the window as I write this and the sky is a dull, slate colour that seems incapable of shedding light.

The clouds are so low you feel like you could touch them if you stood on the tip of your toes and I reckon that it'll be lashing by the time I've even finished writing this column.

And I hate it.

There's a part of me that is convinced that we, as a race, should really just hibernate during the winter.

We like to think of ourselves as the smartest animals on this planet, but even bears have the good sense to know that the best way to spend a winter is to stuff yourself in the summer and autumn and then find a nice cave and just sleep the season out.

Us? We pretend that it is business as normal and just wander around feeling vaguely glum for a few months.

That's why we have Halloween and Christmas; two ancient holidays which were invented for the one same reason -- to stop the natives going mad in the bleak midwinter by giving them something to look forward to and provide an excuse for a drink and bit of a laugh. Anything to break the crushing tedium that cloaks you like a shroud from the end of September until the beginning of March.

God, my birthday is in November and I can't even enjoy that (it's the 14th, for anyone who feels obliged to send me a present, by the way).

Interestingly, some people, mainly women for some reason, have pointed out that I'm dour by nature because being born in November means I'm a Scorpio. I have no truck with all that astrology rubbish, but a load of my mates have birthdays around this time of year and, yes it's true, we're a grumpy bunch of malcontents.

It's going to get even worse when the clocks go back and it's dark shortly after 3.

That, my friends, is my least favourite day of the year.

It almost feels like some sort of weird submission, the realisation that any vague hope for some decent weather is gone for another year.

In fact, it's the realisation that you won't feel truly happy or optimistic until the time comes to turn the clocks forward and you get more of the daylight that you have been craving once more.

I'm still not sure why we even do this, this tinkering with the clocks, but I'm willing to blame the farmers for this.

And for much else as well.

So, I'll leave you with a spooky Halloween tale, given the weekend that's in it.

The village elders used to talk in awed, hushed tones about a fearsome monster who could come into your home at any hour and take whatever she wanted. Whenever she wanted.

Her name was Angela and she was renowned for her merciless, cold spirit and graphite-hard, ice-cold heart.

But I'll have to leave it there.

It's just started to rain again.


Irish Independent

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