Every single year I, and five million others, fall for it. Each summer, we hope, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that this year will be different, that we’ll have a regular summer, with a reasonable amount of sunshine.
We’re not fools – we’re well aware that we live in Ireland and so we don’t kid ourselves that we’ll have endless hot summer days. But we do tend to forget the inarguable evidence that we have already collected that it’s actually quite unlikely we’ll have a hot summer. It’s much more likely that the season will continue to stumble along, exactly as it is doing this year – a few nice, plenty of dull, and too many wet days.
We cope, though, by facing bitter reality with our dogged and irrational, and really quite likeable, optimism.
I remember some years ago, a meteorologist on the radio becoming quite irritable in the face of the broadcaster’s enthusiasm that there was almost certainly a good summer on the way. You see there was a postman in Donegal who was great at forecasting the long-term weather and he had predicted a scorcher that year because the frogs were spawning early. “Look,” said the meteorologist impatiently, “never mind the frogs. It’s quite simple. Ireland has a relatively warm summer roughly every twelve or so years. It’s much more likely that our summer will be like last summer and the one before that and the one before that too.”
In true Irish fashion the interviewer didn’t have a isobar of it – and finished off the interview by saying cheerily, “Sure here’s hoping for a great summer this year!”
A few days ago, Met Éireann told us that an “Azores high” would send temperatures soaring and suddenly it was the main topic of conversation all over the country.
“An Azores High with subtropical temperatures are on the way,” announced my sister happily when she met me in a café yesterday. The waitress hopped in on the conversation,
“I heard it’s going to be scorchio,” she assured us radiantly. I looked at these two seemingly reasonable, normal women who were relying on Irish weather predictions with the wide-eyed confidence of five-year-olds looking forward to Christmas.
It was as if they hadn’t had their hearts broken many times over by the gloriously unpredictable Irish weather. I did the right thing and let them have their crazy dreams.
The Irish weather seems to have moulded our personalities on a collective level and this unreliable weather has taught us to have fun whenever we get the opportunity. We have a reputation for taking our chances as we find them – and no wonder. When the sun decides to break out in Ireland, we have learnt we have to grab our fun right this second. There is no point in waiting for the weekend – there is no point in even waiting until teatime.
Once we see a glimmer of sunshine, we immediately pull on our shorts, break out the ice cream, throw impromptu parties, and convince ourselves that we live in the best little country in the world.
During a good weather spell is when I love being Irish most; our sunny days are special and unlike sunny days in any other country. A carnival spirit breaks out, we dust off the barbeque and immediately make great plans for outside fun. Because we know from bitter experience that if we don’t take advantage of the good weather we will live to regret it very soon. For as sure as day follows night, in Ireland, rain follows sunshine.
When the sun shines, we shine. Then, when the rain falls, we roll our eyes and make the best of it.
Strangely enough, this slightly delusional aspect of the typically Irish personality is actually a sign of good mental health as optimism is often described as being essential for our biological drive for survival.
The neuroscientist Tali Sharot welcomes optimism in the face of harsh reality and explains that, “both neuroscience and social science suggest we are more optimistic than realistic. The belief that the future will be much better than the past and present is known as the optimism bias. It abides in every race, region and socio-economic bracket.”
Looking on the bright side shields us from the hardships that many people are forced to endure. Some of us simply couldn’t bear the future if we knew what was on front of us. And yet, despite some terrible difficulties, most of us manage better than we think we would when troubles actually strike. If we knew what was in our future, some of us couldn’t cope mentally. In truth, we need a sense of optimism; our psyches need to feel that life is making sense and ultimately getting better – never mind any evidence to the contrary.
The Buddhists tell us that the “middle way” is the way of wisdom. If we can manage to have what the psychologist Dr Martin Seligman called a “flexible optimism” we will maintain optimum mental health. This means that we should keep our sunny plans but also learn to handle reality when our plans don’t go our way.
Usually we have dreams of a holiday to sustain us, but with bizarre news reports about the army coming to save us from the queues and baggage issues out in Dublin airport, many of us feel a bit apprehensive about a foreign holiday at the moment and so we’re considering having a staycation. Again.
We don’t ask for much – while we would fall on our knees to give thanks for a little good weather, even not-terrible weather would be acceptable for most of us by now. We’re already halfway through the summer and few of us have felt the indescribable pleasure of long days of languid sunshine yet, so we have to cut our coat according to our cloth.
This is why we should continue to make plans for a scorcher of a weekend.
It’ll increase our sense of well-being and we will probably manage to knock a bit of craic out of it no matter what the weather.
Anyway, it doesn’t really matter if the weather isn’t that great – sure there’s always next year!