Great God, this is an awful place.
Not my words, of course, it’s a quote from Scott of the Antarctic, but we Irish now know how he felt as our freezing weather reaches its twelfth day.
Indeed many of us envy Scott. He had warm boots, fur parkas, galloping huskies and a campmate willing to venture outside for the good of the team. We wusses have been raised on winters that differ from our summers only by a sharper sting to the rain, so we do not have similar equipment. We have Nike runners, cloth hoodies, crawling buses and a housemate unwilling to venture outside even for milk or bread.
This week I’ve abandoned my lonely sojourn at the Base Camp known as the Central Hotel and have been going to work each morning. I’ve pretty well given up on the bus since last Monday, when the one I was on couldn’t get over the hill that hides Greystones from the rest of the world and I had to walk three miles home through the snow. This means that I’ve to walk over a mile to the train each morning, and since I never know just how bad conditions are likely to be I’ve been allowing myself plenty of time, and it’s never a good start to your day if your alarm goes off and the first digit on the clock is a 5 (ok, the rest of the face reads “:45”, but it still feels thirty times earlier than, say 6:01).
The main problem with the journey is our own estate, which is on a steep ice-covered hill, and on the first morning I slipped and fell onto my back. Well I would have done, but luckily a few years ago it became socially acceptable to bring a backpack to work, so that’s what I mostly landed on. I lay there for a second, realised I wasn’t hurt, then waved my legs wildly in the air to right right myself, like a tortoise who has tumbled down a bank. People who prefer briefcases to backpacks please take note.
The sheer force of the fall that the backpack absorbed was illustrated when I got to work and found that the lunchbox inside it had burst open (quick aside, Spellcheck doesn’t recognise the word “lunchbox”, I’m not even going to try it with Linford Christie). By that I don’t mean that the lid had been forced off, I mean that the tub part itself had shattered, leaving me an interesting lunch full of plectrum-sized shards of plastic. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible that a plastic microwaveable tub could explode so. Perhaps the sheer cold had the same effect on it that the liquid nitrogen had on the T-1000 in Terminator 2.
Anyway, since then I’ve been very wary of that first part of the journey each morning. This morning I went out, started down the hill, felt the slippiness underneath, despaired and thought seriously of just going back in and hiding under the covers. Then (and I’m only admitting this because I regard you all as my friends) I looked around and saw that there were no lights on in any of my neighbours houses, so I sat down and inched my way down the road on my bum. I will deny this if any of you tell anyone about it.
But the end may be in sight. Met Office girl Evelyn Cusack (God love her, people must hate the sight of her on TV, it’s not like she actually makes the weather) says temperatures will be above freezing by tomorrow, and on Friday will reach 6 degrees.
It’s amazing how one’s comfort zone adapts. Heretofore most Irish people thought that 6 degrees was a Three Degrees double album. If the temperature was anywhere below ten degrees we’d slide down further under the covers, loudly demand tea and send a small Tinchild out into the back garden to get more coal. Come Friday, though, if it does reach 6 degrees we’ll be out in the street with no shirts on, like the beer-bellied baldies that you see at Newcastle United football matches.
Because it will feel warm.