Tuesday 28 February 2017

How to pretend that it's summer

Grace Wynne-Jones

The existence of the Irish summer is always a topic for hot debate. "My daughter asked me why it was raining and I told her that's what happens in Ireland this time of year," a woman caller recently told the Gerry Ryan Show. And when a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was asked to identify the term for a late season heatwave he joked: "It isn't 'Irish summer' because we don't have them."

We do have them of course but they are highly idiosyncratic and basically a mixture of spring and autumn with the occasional boiling day, or even week. Only the other day I raced into a city centre department store and bought an almost see-through skirt and flimsy top because it was clear that summer was back and I wanted to waft around the place like a woman in a shampoo advertisement.

I wore my new outfit that very evening because my house was as hot and humid as a Manhattan loft but the next morning summer had gone and I could have done with a wetsuit.

I shouldn't have been surprised by this occurrence but I was because, like many people, I foster a blissful innocence about the true nature of our climate. 'Without hope the heart would break' goes the saying, and anyway there really are days when the sun is scorching the pavements.

This happened for almost two whole weeks in May and a couple I know felt mightily cheated because, having escaped to Portugal, they were informed by Sky News that the weather was warmer back home. Okay, so the truth is the Irish summer is sporadic. When it is absent for extended periods it is easy to believe it's gone forever and was never really there anyway. Believing this is very depressing but with a little imagination the cloudy days need not affect your morale.

The obvious solution is to pretend it's summer even if it starts snowing. Pretending it's summer is not as complicated as it sounds and here are some self-help tips:

* The right soundtrack is indispensable. Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers is perfect and you can even get great tips from the lyrics. For example the line: 'summer breeze/makes me feel fine/blowing through the jasmine in my mind' can be re-enacted by putting jasmine oil in the aromatherapy burner and sitting five feet away from a fan heater.

* Visit clothes stores which, bless their cotton socks, are awash with sarongs and teensy weensy tops in summery colours which is proof that summer exists even if it's currently elsewhere.

* Walk faster it induces a feeling of warmth.

* Buy a box of tin cicadas (available in Dublin's Georges Street Market and other adventurous outlets). They make a noise remarkably like real cicadas and when placed in the garden will remind you of May.

* Taste summer by buying feta cheese and olives in the supermarket and always ask for a bit of flake in your ice-cream.

* Occasionally light the barbecue and burn a bit of meat out of nostalgia.

* Remember that the glass is either half empty or half full and after a bottle of red wine grown somewhere that may be too hot the climate improves almost instantly.

* Grace Wynne-Jones is the author of the novels Ordinary Miracles and Wise Follies (Pocket Books paperbacks)

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