Thursday 17 January 2019

Enjoy the snow - it'll be gone soon enough

Nostalgia: The big snow of 1982 in Dublin
Nostalgia: The big snow of 1982 in Dublin
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Here we go again.

Will we never learn?

Call it a weather bomb. Call it Storm Emma. Call it the Beast From The East. Call it a dynamic cyclone or whatever the technical phrase is these days.

I call it fun. And, if you're honest, so do you.

Look at the live TV press conferences. Look at the emergency meetings being held by Government ministers. Read the papers.

Can you spot one recurring theme?

Of course you can - the recurring theme is one of sheer, unadulterated panic.

With the obvious exception of a few fatalities during last year's great non-event, Storm Ophelia, most of us watched the weather predictions, prepared for the worst and then got pissed off when it didn't really happen.

Sure, a few trees got blown down. Yes, transport was disrupted for 24 hours. But most of us just looked outside the window, saw that it was a bit blustery and shrugged our shoulders. It's the Irish way - we listen to our supposed elders and betters, we believe them unconditionally. Then when it turns out that the dire warnings they issued weren't as dire as they should have been, we just go on about our day and never believe them again.

That's their mistake, but it's ours also. We have a national tendency to put too much faith in authority and once that faith has vanished, we decide that we shall never believe them again. Even if they happen to be right.

This curiously Irish trait sees us deviate between blind loyalty and then complete contempt. Neither option is particularly smart, but then again, we're not really a smart people. As we have all discovered these last few days, just because the experts may not be entirely right on one thing, that doesn't mean they can't be right on another.

I'm as guilty of this Irish cynicism as anyone else, which is why I spent most of Tuesday blithely dismissing the latest prophecies about the incoming Snowmageddon.

That didn't last long.

But amidst all the frenzy from Official Ireland (my wife texted me on Wednesday afternoon to say that Liveline was doing a special TV broadcast and added, for impact, 'this shit just got real') here's something many people in power don't want to admit - we love this stuff.

For a country that usually experiences a climate which can best be described as beige, we have just had come technicolour weather. And it's bloody brilliant.

Much the same way as those of us who have reached a certain age feel nostalgic for the music of our youth (see side bar to the right), this is weather straight from the youth of anyone who is in their mid-forties.

Yes, I'm going to bring you kicking and screaming back to the Big Snow of 1982 and the way we handled things differently back then.

Except we didn't handle things differently back then. We are just as excited now as we were then. It's just that now people have to pretend to be pissed off.

When that snow came down, and I woke up as a kid in Greenhills to see a vast duvet of white, nobody felt like the world was ending.

If anything, it felt like the world was just beginning. To be told the schools were shut was a great thing. To be told the schools would be shut for a week was so bloody fantastic that it remains an indelible memory for an entire generation.

Walking up to the shops through a blizzard on Wednesday afternoon was, in a weird way, like walking through a time tunnel.

Back in 1982, I was a little bugger throwing snowballs at oul fellas with my mates.

And in 2018? I'm the oul fella having the snow balls fecked at me.

Frankly, the only thing that stopped me angrily shaking my fist at the little shites was the fact that I envied them. Who wouldn't want to be a kid in this kind of weather?

The local green has turned into a winter wonderland and kids will always do what kids want to do in such conditions, which is have snowball fights, use any available black bin liners to slide down any steep hill and get up to mischief.

The panic buying hasn't changed, either.

In fact, yesterday I went into the local shop looking for one of those creamy mushroom sauces you can buy in a tin. They're usually kinda gross.

But that mad Thursday night when the snow came down all those years ago, the next door neighbours gathered in our house for one of my Ma's cracking meals and the memory I have of that dinner? That creamy mushroom sauce. When the going gets tough, we want to feed each other.

These are the things you can never leave behind, no matter how hard you may try. They rest on our shoulders like the ghosts of the dead parents who made that meal and just like certain songs, can trigger a weird flashback. I can't see a proper billow of snow without being dragged back to those days of warmth and food and a weird, almost Blitz-spirit sense of everyone coming together.

As I dodged the snowballs and trudged up the road the other day, the only thing that was different from 1982 was the fact that I wasn't wearing socks as gloves. But I bet some of the kids were. Sure, we had the snow a few years ago, but that just interrupted everyone's plans and was a pain for all concerned. This one feels like a freebie - it'll be gone in a few days and we have a weekend to enjoy it. So enjoy it if you can and make sure your dogs are safe and warm.

The creamy mushroom sauce was only bleedin' gorgeous, by the way...

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