The Irish love to moan about their customary bad weather...but these days a good few of them are quite literally hot and bothered about an unusual visitor that’s been arriving around six in the morning, and won’t leave until well after 10 at night – only to return again the next day.
That would be the sun. The scorching, hot, large yellow orb that’s shining bright in a cloudless Irish sky as I write this piece at 5 p.m. at a hotel in Killarney, Co. Kerry.
I thought I was coming to Ireland for my annual summer vacation with the female members of my family, but instead it seems we landed in Miami Beach.
All I can say is, wow!
In the news are the Anglo Bank tapes, the abortion bill, the unemployment rate, the royal baby, but the first words out of everyone’s mouth are as follows: “Have ye ever seen anything like the heat?”
In all the years I’ve been coming to Ireland we’ve never felt the sun like this. You’d be lucky to get the usual forecast – sunny spells in between the clouds and rain. If luck was really on your side, maybe you’d get a full day or two without a shower.
I was watching the RTE News weather forecast last night. They always show a map of Ireland that more often than not is covered with little clouds and bursts of rain.
Not on Monday. The forecast is sun, more sun, and more sun after that. Not even a minute of the wet stuff is on the horizon, anywhere.
Though us Yanks are loving the heat – we’re well used to it, after all – many Irish are quite literally exhausted from it. Milky white skin isn’t really compatible with the sudden shock of daily temperatures of 29 Celsius – 84 in our neck of the woods – so sunburns and big red faces abound.
Instead of seeing folks wearing jackets and trying to keep warm, now they’re garbed in shorts, tank tops and flip-flops in a desperate attempt to stay cool.
I was in a phone shop on Monday talking to a clerk who had sweat rolling from his forehead. “Last week we had fires lit in our houses, now we’ve got this,” the poor guy said. “I think we really need the rain back.”
He was dead serious.
The man in the hardware store in Rathmore outside Kerry was the talk of the town he had sold out of fans and told everyone he could sell 300 more such was the demand.
Praying for a break is a fairly common refrain. Though recent Irish summers have been pretty poor when it comes to sun outbreaks, this non-stop heat is really wearing some of the locals down – especially the older ones who wear pants only and that tried and trusted Irish fashion staple, white socks and open-toed sandals for the guys.
At home we have many ways to beat the heat – outdoor pools, shopping malls, movie theaters, or just the comfort of our air-conditioned homes.
Here, options for cooling off are extremely limited because air conditioning is for the most part a foreign concept.
The hotel we’re staying in doesn’t have it. I’m sitting right now in another hotel that would be considered fairly upscale – but the large foyer is hot as hell. No AC.
Stores along Killarney’s Main Street? No AC. Restaurants? No AC. We did manage to feel at home for a brief few minutes, thankfully, when changing money at the Bank of Ireland, which greeted visitors with a wonderful blast of arctic air.
Thank goodness for Irish ice cream. Those selling the famously delicious 99 cones are doing a brisk business – it seems like every child walking the streets is licking one.
People aren’t sleeping very well because it doesn’t cool down all that much at night. And many of them are staying indoors or in shady places during the day. Though they bemoan the lack of the sun, too much of a good thing is starting to fray the nerves too.
We went to my cousin’s house the other day on the outskirts of Killarney. The kids were inside with their Playstation.
“Too hot for them to go out,” my cousin said. “They hate this kind of heat.”
Be careful what you wish for? That seems to be the case at least for some Irish these days and their big yellow frenemy.
But there’s no denying one thing – when the sun is shining in Ireland like this, it would be hard to pick a better vacation place.
We ate our dinner last night outside at the Lake Hotel, right on the Lakes of Killarney. It was sunny at 10 p.m. and the air was perfect – Irish sun thankfully, doesn’t come with the icky humidity that we’re all too familiar with back home.
On Sunday Killarney was quite literally bursting at the seams with perfect weather to go along with a big football match and a charity cycle race around the Ring of Kerry. Pubs couldn’t keep up with the demand from people who wanted to bask in the sun and fun, and the narrow streets were alive with laughter and music.
Tourists are all over the place. The year of The Gathering 2013 initiative couldn’t have been better picked. Those coming to Ireland for the first time will certainly have a summer to remember.
Ireland and the sun are perfectly matched. If this trend continues in the future the Irish economy won’t need to court the likes of Google or Facebook – the central air conditioning industry could be the new savior!