Surviving the long weekend
With the first hint of summer sun upon us, Bill Linnane offers a complete guide to avoiding the many pitfalls of barbecues, beaches and blazing weather this bank holiday
The dreaded bank holiday season is upon us. After the comfort of the longest winter in Irish history, when we didn't have to leave the safety of our own homes for months on end, we are now faced with the terrifying prospect of decent weather and the feeling that maybe we should get out and about and face the abject horror that is other people.
However, there are many things that can go wrong, so here is a simple guide to surviving the bank holiday weekend with your mind and body intact...
The key to a successful barbecue is to never plan ahead. For the moment an Irish person says the word 'barbecue', you have about two hours until monsoon season starts, localised in your back garden.
Sending out invites or making plans for a barbecue the next day is just alerting the fates and asking them to chuck a tsunami of rain down on you, meaning you get to stand out in the rain under a golf umbrella, while the hot coals turn the rain into steam and your sausages into steamed hams. Meanwhile, everyone inside the house keeps opening the patio doors to ask if it's ready, while snickering at your soggy chinos.
Then there's the politics - do you invite the neighbours? Even the ones to the back who have that Game of Thrones-style wall of leylandii that has blocked out the sun and led to your cat developing rickets?
What about the food? Do you really have to use every part of the pig, all served bleu, and do you even bother with that small bowl of flaccid salad nobody eats?
And then there's the burger buns - like soft, doughy pillows when you open the packet and then magically transformed into rock-hard frisbees after 30 minutes of exposure to the heat.
But really the food is just a lure to draw the people to your bacchanalian feast, as you finally found a use for the recycling bin by stuffing it with 500 cans and enough ice to sink the Titanic - an ironic reminder that our planet is dying thanks to people like you who don't understand how to recycle.
Our relationship with the sun is similar to our relationship with alcohol: we tend to binge. The first sign of sun - even in late March, when a strong sun is offset by icy winds - will see the more optimistic among us go 'tops off' down Main Street, strutting around as though the world needed to see our pasty flesh and tattooed tributes to Tupac/Keano/your granddad who drowned chasing a Pokemon.
Later in the year, when the sun gets truly strong, this practise spreads like a virus, as nobody wants to look like a prude, and opts to look like a manatee in combat shorts instead. The Irish people always forget that the sun is not our friend - it is there so Jesus can see what we are up to, be it fly-tipping, burying our children's nappies at the beach, or showing a complete lack of regard for the delicate skin he gave us.
You know that when you go back into work on Tuesday you will be asked what you did for the weekend, so the pressure is on for you to actually get up off the couch and go somewhere.
If you have children this will mean the beach, as it is a) free and b) they can urinate anywhere they want.
Your first 30 minutes are spent doing a Harry Houdini routine as you struggle to get into and out of an ill-fitting wetsuit in front of giggling teenagers, while your picnic sandwiches instantly become wedges of sand.
You'd go in the water, but your beach has recently achieved Brown Flag status, meaning you would be better off going for a cooling dip in your own septic tank.
To top it all off, your toddler wanders off into the crowds, and you suddenly realise that your parental bond with them isn't that strong, as you can't tell your screaming, obnoxious toddler from any of the other 300 of them on the beach.
After 45 minutes, you are ready to go home, along with the swarm of sand-hoppers who now live in your hair and privates.
Waters and the wild
The fragrant coastal waters of Ireland aren't the only way to cool off - there are also our inland waterways. Anyone old enough to remember the 'Where's Granddad?' water safety ads from the 1980s will know that rivers and lakes are death traps, waiting to lure any septuagenarians into their black depths.
It's a tale as old as time: One minute granddad is there relaxing in his deckchair, next thing he is chasing a Pokemon into the River Blackwater.
Lakes are no better; they may not have jetstream currents, but they have random holes that are as deep as portals to hell.
On the surface they are no safer, as the local tycoon has decided to mobilise his jet ski, powerboat and wakeboard just in time for a mass decapitation of the poor proles in the water, whose only crime was trying to cool down after a hard week toiling upon the land.
Best to keep it safe and just opt for a paddling pool in the back garden, which turns into an insect porridge 10 minutes after you have filled it, or, should you leave it up overnight, will have at least one deceased rodent floating face down in it come morning.
'This is just like the opening scene to Sunset Boulevard', you think to yourself, as you fish the soggy rodent out and fling it into your neighbour's garden.
Nothing says sunshine like a plastic bag filled with cans. It's a bank holiday weekend, and you are fairly sure it says somewhere in the Constitution that you have to have a drink or two to mark the occasion.
However, the combination of sunshine, dehydration, a sudden surge of Vitamin D and a load of cans means that the scene is set for mayhem, be it teenage riots on Portmarnock Strand or getting into a fight with one of those judgemental TidyTowners who tried to get you to take your rubbish from the beach, rather than just ditched in the vicinity of an overflowing bin.
The bank holiday is fraught with danger as it is, be it through getting a wing mirror to the face at a rally, falling into a threshing machine at an agricultural show, flying a kite into a pylon, or roasting alive in a traffic jam on your way to the coast - so just try to enjoy the weekend, responsibly.