It was as if I’d woken from a wonderful dream, and tumbled into a nightmare. Suddenly the world was filled with a sound that I’d forgotten ever existed. It startled me, and I found myself asking what the noise was, when the words died on my lips. That hammering of a thousand nails, that howling of a hundred dying cats; that whistling and booming and torrential chorus heralded the end of almost two weeks of unbroken summer sunshine. It was raining. In fact, it was raining so hard that in other parts of the world, the word monsoon would not have been inappropriate. It’s probably a defense mechanism, but when the sun shines for an extended period in West Cork (say a week), it’s as if we had never known rain. The magic of midsummer is such that we walk around completely dazzled, having forgotten (and forgiven) that on St John’s Eve 2012 it was only 11C. I , for one, actively cultivate denial during a heat-wave. I refuse to remember the recent storms, or the fact that I’ve sworn to get away next winter. Denial comes easy when the temperature rises. There are few places that compare to Southern Ireland when the summer is hot. In fact few places can compare with the view from my front field. The landscape comes into its own in a glorious display. The trees are lush, the grass is thick and the barley planted across the road is just coming to its own. Take a drive down to the coast and you could be somewhere on the Riviera, without the traffic jams and swarms of tourists. Whatever your desires might be: surfing, fishing, walking, gardening, or just lounging (my personal favorite) –you’d be hard pressed to find a better backdrop to do it in. West Cork is the ‘bees knees’, the ‘cream of the cream’, the ‘tip of the top’ for fun in the sun. Sure, where else would you be going?
That our recent heat-wave hit us at midsummer, not to mention in the middle of the World Cup, only made it more spectacular. The days are so long that it only gets dark, for a few hours. I love the midsummer midnight sky, with its strange glow on the horizon when the sun has not quite set in the West, but you can already see a hint of it rising in the East. I had occasion to enjoy the midsummer midnight sky a number of times over the solstice weekend. West Cork’s charms are no secret and the house became like a revolving stage set, as various groups of friends popped over for a visit. They come bearing goodies and instruments, which they add to the goodies and instruments already in the house. It’s only delightful. Midsummer Magic at its best with family, friends and lots of food, drink and music. Anything that can be put off is dismissed as unimportant. We had BBQs for five days straight. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow it might rain!
And then it did rain. Great gushing torrents broke from the heavens as if a celestial hose had been suddenly turned on. I told myself that it didn’t mean the end of summer. I did not put away my flip-flops. I comforted myself with the thought that the garden could use some water. I acknowledged the refreshing smell of summer rain as I went out to investigate during a break in the showers.
It always surprises me how quickly the land becomes parched after a dry week, but not as much as how fast it grows as soon as it rains again. I swear that the grass along our road frontage has grown a foot since yesterday. Even the plants in the porch seem to have grown substantially on the increased moisture in the air. The lovely complacency of the last ten days has brutally been replaced with a sense of urgency. The peas need picking. The weeds are close to being out of control. Then again, if we don’t start strimming soon, it won’t matter if we weed or not. The whole property will revert to jungle.
Then as if the weather Gods had waved their magic wand, it was over. The clouds dispersed, the sun came out, the skies were blue again and the heat was back on. Just as I was starting to make a catch-up list for all the tasks that I’d set aside during the heat-wave, it was another beautiful day. Time to put on the flip-flops and enjoy the view!