|The cheapness of alcohol in Ireland has become a huge problem|
Looking out my study window right now on Tuesday morning I see things are back to normal. It's raining!
But for the past week and right through the weekend things have been far from normal. Not a drop of rain. Hot unbroken sunshine from clear skies all day long. It was like the Mediterranean.
We needed it badly because here in Ireland we have come through the coldest, wettest spring for decades. So when the sun finally appeared a week ago and then turned into a six-day heat wave we basked in it.
They can warn all they like about the dangers of skin cancer and the need to slap on the factor 30, but when Irish people get the chance to escape the drizzle and soak up the rays, they just go for it. They can't resist. So there are painfully pink bodies everywhere today.
For most people here a few days of hot weather means stripping off outside work or college during lunch break, trying to get home early and praying that it will last to the weekend.
Unbelievably, this time it did, right across the country. It was glorious.
But once again it revealed a far from glorious side to Irish society -- the ongoing problem we have here with drink.
For the Irish, particularly Irish teens and young adults, sun and booze seem to go together. It's not just a few beers with a barbecue. It's a compulsion to get completely out of it.
This leads to tragic outcomes like drownings (there were a few here over the past week) as drunk teenagers decide to go swimming. It also leads to fights and even riots as the alcohol kicks in and tempers flare up in the rising temperatures.
The Internet hums with messages about raves and beach parties. Nothing wrong with that, except that the results are often out of control drunken mobs throwing bottles, doing drugs and having running battles.
There were two of these not far from where I live on the north side of Dublin, one when the good weather kicked off and the other during this weekend.
The first was a running battle on the popular family beach in Portmarnock, with vicious fighting and bottles being thrown, terrifying children who were in the vicinity.
Anecdotal evidence indicated that it started as a battle between two mobs, one immigrant and the other local (north Co. Dublin has a high concentration of immigrant families who came here during the boom, mainly from Eastern Europe).
With hundreds involved, the few Gardai (police) who arrived at the scene could only stand and watch and video what was happening. (You can see this yourself on YouTube if you search for Portmarnock beach riot). The video is filmed from a safe distance and gives little idea of how terrifying the event was, particularly for families who were caught on the beach when the trouble broke out.
One tactic that the drunk and drugged up teens are using now to defy the police is to congregate in such large numbers that it's impossible to control them (at least for an unarmed police force).
At the weekend, organized on the Internet, they descended on Howth, the fishing and sailing village at the end of the Dart electric train line on the north side of Dublin, which is in all the guide books and is visited by hundreds of tourists to the city every weekend in the summer.
The tourists come to stroll down the piers, admire the fish in the fish shops or lunch in the restaurants around the harbor. There are big sailing yachts to see and boat trips out to the famous Ireland's Eye, the small island just offshore. There are beaches for a swim, cliff walks, golf courses and the ancient Howth Castle to explore.
Howth is a spectacularly beautiful place (one reason why I live there), and it's a perfect break for tourists in Dublin who want to get out of the city for a while. It's less than half an hour away from the city center by Dart. So, as I said, it's hugely popular with tourists.
But what greeted the tourists who came out to Howth last weekend to stroll down the pier must have been left them reeling in shock, particularly if they were trapped at the far end of the pier when the rave started.