Hook in the West
IT is often said that if Ireland had the weather, there would be no reason to leave. And sure enough, on a warm summer’s day, I believe there isn’t a place in the world that can match Ireland for its beauty.
Readers of this newspaper will understand more than most how beautiful beaches, luscious landscape and picturesque mountainside dotted across the horizon can lift the spirit. Mayo truly is a beautiful place.
The problem for Ireland, in comparison to most other European countries, is that it doesn’t get it’s fair share of good weather. But it says something for our tiny island nation that tourists continue to flock here every year, even in the knowledge that rain is more than likely to pour scorn on their vacation.
Over the last few weeks, Ireland has enjoyed an unseasonably dry and mild run on the weather-front. Even now, in the earliest days of November, the temperature outside remains most inviting for a morning stroll, or a round of golf with friends. Normally, by this stage of the year, Ireland is in the midst of burying itself in wooly jumpers and heavy coats, with the advancing winter announcing itself in sharp, biting winds and heavy, drenching showers. Yet, here we are, mild as you like and the environment perfectly hospitable for outdoor pursuits.
I myself have been taking full advantage of this. There hasn’t been a day over this past month where I haven’t ventured outside to soak up the autumnal atmosphere and bask in the unseasonably mild spell. Normally, by this stage of the year, I have to fight off the black demons that arrive with the sudden drop in temperature. Not this month, however.
The mild spell has done wonders for my good humour and I genuinely believe that life is easier to navigate with the aid of a bright sky and a palatable air. I notice it in my friends and work colleagues, too. Everyone seems happier than normal at this time of year and it is no coincidence that the mood of the country seems to coincide with the generous weather outside.
Last weekend, however, all that changed. On Saturday night the clocks went back an hour to satisfy daylight savings time. With it, we lost an hour of daylight in the evenings and instead of travelling home from work in natural light, our return journeys from the daily grind will now be shrouded in darkness.
I dread this scourge on the evenings. There is something really depressing about rising each morning in a blanket of darkness and then returning home that night in a similar black fog. And to compound matters further, there is simply no good reason for putting the clocks back.
The whole silly affair started during World War I as a means for the Germans and Austrians to save on coal usage, but it wasn’t long before the Allies followed suit, with the result that we all do it now to accommodate a ghastly, old-fashioned routine.
It makes no sense to me that we still observe a tradition that was started at the beginning of the last century, as a temporary solution to accommodate exceptional circumstances. Maintaining this daft system today, almost 100 years on, makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a bit like opting for a push lawnmower, ahead a perfectly good electrical one. What’s the point? Surely it is time we took back that lost hour of daylight?
I can’t foresee too many complaints if this old-fashioned tradition is done away with. The only people that might have a problem with it are a few isolated souls living in the far borders of Scotland, some of whom might not see daylight each morning until 10am! But for the rest of us, the benefits of an extra hour of light in the evening far outweigh the argument for maintaining the status quo.
The weather across Ireland is expected to take a dramatic turn in the coming days. Met Éireann has forecast that frost and rain will dominate the landscape before the week is out and the lovely spell of mild, warm weather is coming to an end. It was wonderful while it lasted.
And as the older generation struggle to keep out the cold over the coming months, spare a thought for a neighbour that might benefit from a visit, now and then. I am lucky enough to have family and friends around me to such an extent that solitude comes only when I actively seek it out. But there are many lonely souls not as fortunate as yours truly.
The winter can be very tough on even the hardest souls, but for elderly people living alone, it can be a desperately lonely time. Consider how much an occasional visit, or offer of a trip to the shops, might mean to a vulnerable person living on their own. It could be the difference between a day well spent and several hours in isolation.
Meanwhile, the clock went back on Saturday night and we all lost a precious hour of daylight in the evening. The sooner we get rid of this prehistoric tradition, the better. I have always believed that the seasons have a profound effect on the mood of the nation. Anything to alleviate the stress and strain of the dark winter months can only be a good thing. One extra hour of daylight every twenty-four hours isn’t too much to ask.