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Enduring Eleanor

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

SURVIVAL and adaptation is the name of the game here in the wintery wild west. One day of crisp frosty sunshine and we act as if we are Scandinavians in the snow; a pet day in a rain-sodden April and we have ingested more Vitamin D than a Caribbean coconut farmer.
As our old friend Peig Sayers might moan and, moreover, ochón: “Sure isn’t a week a long time in the turbulent and truculent story of the Mayo meterological chart.”
Well, yerra, didn’t Storm Eleanor cause a dark night of the soul and the body as she sneaked in over the horizon around 5.15-ish last Tuesday evening. This traumatised columnist certainly wasn’t expecting it. Neither, it appears, were all the experts and officials who frightened the bejaysus out of us over the wrath of Storm Ophelia. Where were they? Lost in a sea of brandy butter? Weighed down by the leftover Christmas pudding? Concentrating on picking the last vestiges of meat from the turkey’s backside? I won’t forget their ominous warnings and hysterical headlines ahead of Ophelia.

Sneaky storm
MEANWHILE, Eleanor, the first storm of 2018, sneaked in over the horizon like a cat sliding along towards its prey, pouncing only at the last moment to ensure the element of surprise was effected perfectly. The only harbinger a flickering of the lights. Once. Twice. Again. Enough, I will concede, for me to arm myself with my mini-torch and bring dinner forward. So I turned on the oven, chopped my sweet potato chips, mixed the eggs for an omelette and – like the dramatic entrance of a diva – Eleanor turned out the lights, rattled the roof, trembled the chimneys, battered the windows with fusillades of hailstones, any object that hadn’t been tied down.
All I will say is, thank goodness for the crackers and cheese and the glass of medicinal red wine.
Thank goodness too for the armies of Christmas candles, the bales of turf, the bucket of coal. I would survive missing Emmerdale for one night and, anyway, the computer and wifi batteries were at least half-full. I was still in touch with the outside world and, most importantly, could check ESB outages and was encouraged by the fact it predicted that Westport would be ‘turned on’ circa 9pm.
Well, 9pm came and went. In my heart, I knew Westport probably meant the town and not its rural environs. (But doesn’t hope spring eternal when you are sitting in the dark and talking to yourself!)
So, one by one, the devices died. That last five percent on the iPhone held out bravely but in the end – sometime around midnight – it capitulated too.

Dark nights
I really hadn’t noticed how long these mid-winter nights are until Eleanor closed in around my house; shut out the rest of the world; left me in solitary confinement for about 16 hours. Her bombardment meant I couldn’t sleep, imagining I would be discovered in the middle of a field five miles away in the morning; on top of one of the trees in the garden; hanging out of the chimney like a dazed Mrs Claus wondering where the hell Rudolph has disappeared to.
Finally, the relief of first light, cracking tentatively in through the window. When I summoned up enough courage to open the front door shortly before 9am, I looked like an extra- terrestrial leaving her spaceship after landing on a new planet.
The garden was a battlefield of branches; flowerpots lay upturned and cracked; a garden chair, secured in a heretofore sheltered nook, was upside down in a hedge. In a window-box a bouquet of narcissi – delicate and so yellow – stood stubborn and flimsy.
Suddenly, inside a light went on, the hum of the fridge filled the air, a radio conversation continued – as if Eleanor was a figment of my imagination.
I turned the kettle on and waited for it to sing.

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