Sunday 22 July 2018

Is there any such thing as a free lunch?

Rained off: Why is it that when you take a holiday in August, all it does is pour anyway. We Irish go to the beach anyway.
Rained off: Why is it that when you take a holiday in August, all it does is pour anyway. We Irish go to the beach anyway.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I am finding it hard to write this week as I am incandescent with rage about the weather. Rage can be helpful for an angry opinion piece but it's not the best place to start the final call for your suggestions on what a great little country this is.

I am livid because the weather is good. It is good and I am in here working, looking out at it, livid. And it will probably be gone at the weekend, when I am ready for it. I know you are thinking that good weather is not enough to make a person livid, that this is just the general pi**edoffness (sorry, family paper - postofficeness) that we all feel when we are stuck in work on a fine day. But it goes beyond that for me. I'm livid because I was on holidays a week ago and for a good part of that time it was monsoon season in Cork. I played Russian roulette with the Irish summer, and I lost.

Of course we all accept that you can still function in an Irish summer no matter what the weather. We are perhaps unique in the world in our predilection for going to the beach and eating ice creams in the rain. We are also well known for wearing summer clothes purely because it is technically summer, not because the weather is in any way suitable. 'It's August so I'm wearing my shorts' is the attitude in Ireland, even if it's snowing.

So I was happy to accept while on holidays that a good portion of the holidays were rained off. And it didn't stop play. I even got into the sea in the middle of a storm in Garryvoe, with my mother watching from her car shrieking, "Are you mad?" That's all fine. That's part of the deal. I was happy to accept at that point that clearly the summer was over and we weren't getting any good weather. It fed into my theory that official summer is held at the wrong time in Ireland. I have long argued that summer in this country needs to be recalibrated to fall more in line with meteorological norms. Summer should technically start as early as mid April, but definitely May. And we should probably think about wrapping it up then at the end of July. So I was accepting of the bad weather in the first week of August.

And then the weather turns around and does this, taunting us with the gorgeousness and randomness and unfairness of it all.

The difference between good weather and bad weather when you are on holidays is fairly fundamental, but it can be quite subtle too. You still wake up every morning and feel a nice sense of relief that you don't have to go to work. There can even be a certain relief that it is raining and you can sit around in your pants for a while without guilt. But then, as the day progresses, you have to think of things to do. And the kids are that bit antsier, and things can get tense at times. And the worst part is that sometimes you can forget why things are not going so well. You can just think that your kids are annoying and you hate your partner and indeed yourself. And then you remember that it is all because you are having to determinedly struggle against the weather.

Generally you only realise this when the sun comes out and everything suddenly becomes simpler and easier. And cheaper. You could get through a sunny day without spending a penny at all if you were so inclined. On a sunny day you need nothing, you can just be.

A sunny day in Ireland truly is when the best things in life are free. A walk, a swim, the scenery, a mooch around town enjoying the street life, lazing on the grass, bringing the kids to the park. The only thing that compromises the freedom of these things on a sunny day is that for some reason, people are now expected to buy coffee wherever they go.

And many of them do. Some people clearly can't just enjoy something unless they are consuming in some way. And coffee seems to fit the bill. So everywhere you go they are there with their paper cups welded to them. Much nicer if you ask me, and practically free, are a flask of hot water, and a teabag, and the added smug pleasure of not pay three yoyos for a hot drink.

This week we want to know the best free things to do in Ireland.

Send your suggestions to A Great Little Country, c/o 27/32, Talbot St, D1 D01 X2E1, or email

There's a prize from for the best one.

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