Wednesday 20 February 2019

Winter is nearly upon us - we may as well try to embrace it

Sunshine: It's time to put memories of the summer aside, and think ahead to Sunday roasts and fireside chats in a cosy pub
Sunshine: It's time to put memories of the summer aside, and think ahead to Sunday roasts and fireside chats in a cosy pub
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Well, that's that.

After the best summer any of us can remember - scorching weather and a fantastic World Cup... If Carlsberg did summers, etc - and while the Indian summer lingers into the autumn, we'll soon be back to where we always are in this country, square one.

The months of glorious sunshine turned us into a different breed altogether and it was exquisite. People were in better form, the daily 12 hours of sunshine were healthy for the mind and the body.

Even the ability to actually plan a barbecue two days in advance was, in itself, a remarkable feeling. After all, we live in a country where most barbecues are done with the sound of the rain sizzling on the burners and the muttered grumblings of the man - it's usually a man - at the flames who regrets ever buying the bloody thing in the first place.

But what goes up must come down and, just as there was a sense of well-being and contentment during June and July, now the kids are back in school, the first Halloween signs are starting to pop up in the shops and the politicians are having their annual row about the social welfare Christmas bonus.

The barbecue that brought you so much joy? That's down the shed to gather dust and rust for another year. Clothes? Well, you've put away the summer garb and are now walking around in more sensible jumpers and wearing heavier jackets.

Leaving the bedroom window open at night? Stuff that - this is central heating time. Which, of course, means you now have to ring a man to come and fix the boiler.

Even those lovely salads you so enjoyed have replaced by a longing for mashed potatoes, slow roast shoulder of pork and gravy.

The time for hibernation is upon us because we're in SAD times.

Thousands of Irish people suffer from 'Seasonal Affected Disorder' and, to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if the figure was even higher. I've already had two conversations this week with people who admitted that they were grumpy because they were already missing the summer and, more ominously, they're really dreading winter.

SAD isn't some newly discovered and snappily named illness - the condition goes back to the bleak midwinters of yore when people needed harvest festivals and breaks such as Christmas just to break the unending gloom. Let's face it, the monotony of a dark winter on a rock in the Atlantic can be enough to send anyone completely mad.

Our winters are still speed-bumped by Halloween and Christmas because there is nothing quite so daunting as the thoughts of four or five months of no sun, lots of rain and turning the lights on at 4pm.

Of course, just being aware of something doesn't mean you can cure it, and I remember my mother used to metaphorically hibernate for most of the winter. In other words, she had no energy, no enthusiasm and everyone walked on tippy-toes.

When the term 'SAD' first appeared, she scoffed - she didn't have SAD, she said, she just had the winter blues, which is a distinction without a difference if ever there was one.

Most of us either feel like that or we know someone like that, but there is only one way to really get around all of this.

Yes, you can use those light boxes that give the user a burst of artificial sunshine. You can take some vitamin supplements and even if you have to rely on the placebo effect, they might do some good.

Of course, the experts say the best way to get over the blues is to go for a vigorous walk. But that's their answer to everything and if you find it difficult to muster the energy to get out of bed on the cold and dark mornings, you're not going to force yourself to go for a brisk constitutional in the mountains.

The best and simplest way to shake off the cobwebs and escape the mental wet blanket which descends around this time every year is to simply embrace it.

Suffering the blues in winter doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, it just means you're paying attention and gloominess is a perfectly rational response to the days getting shorter, the nights getting longer and the always mournful sight of nature shutting down for the next six months.

So, look forward to putting the heating on. Look forward to doing nice roast dinners on a Sunday. Enjoy the prospect of meeting up with some friends in a cosy snug in your favourite bar and hunkering down as the elements blast the streets outside.

Let's face it, the winter isn't going to stop just because you don't enjoy it. In fact, there is something almost masochistic about those people who simply accept that they're powerless in the face of misery for the foreseeable future.

This the perfect opportunity to take control of your own emotions, give a two fingers to the winter blues and to shake it off.

So, raise a glass to the approaching gloom, and dare it to do its worst.

Because that defiance in the face of inclement conditions sure beats the alternative of being a grumpy sod until the leaves come back in 2019...


Honestly, the ­candidates just need to Zen it down a bit

So it begins.

Insinuations of murky financial double-dealing. Rumours of a mysterious slush fund. Dark mutterings about an apparent security breach actually being a publicity stunt in disguise. Exhaustive research into old tweets, previously held opinions and past associations. Accusations of skulduggery, bad faith and a lone plea from one person to play nice and keep things clean.

Yup, it’s a presidential election, for sure. But not the one in America, where we have all become rather addicted to the murky machinations and dirty tricks of the Beltway swamp.

No, this is the Irish presidential election, where a bunch of people are getting ready to tear strips off each other in order to secure a job that has absolutely no power or relevance to anyone other than themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that we have a president and while I wouldn’t lose any sleep or start burning stuff down if the role was ever discontinued, I’d vote for it to be retained.

But Jesus Christ — can someone have a word with the candidates and the party machines behind them and tell them all to Zen it down a bit?

As Irish people, we have a remarkable capacity to look at things through the wrong end of the telescope.

We accept the things we shouldn’t (the USC is still my biggest bugbear on that score) and go bonkers over the things we should accept (nobody expects free electricity, so why should we expect free water?)

And in classic Hiberno hysteria, we’re already witnessing a campaign that is shaping up to be one of the nastiest ones yet.

Does anyone seriously believe that the Áras intruder was a carefully planned stooge? Does anyone really believe that Michael D is secretly operating his own private slush fund from the public purse?

Frankly, I was remarkably tickled by that doozy — I don’t have much time for Miggledy’s politics, but he’s a decent enough sort of chap and the idea that he would use the office to siphon off millions for himself was so absurd that it was just laughable rather than sinister.

I can’t help escape the idea that this campaign will be orchestrated behind the scenes by wannabe strategists, mad people and political operatives who think they’re starring in their own episode of The West Wing.

What’s next, I wonder? Russian dossiers? Allegations of secret meetings with foreign dictators? A sex scandal?

Strap in and enjoy the next few weeks because it’s going to be a bumpy, and very stupid, but extremely funny, ride.

Indo Review

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