As the first of June rolled in, so did a fleet of bleak black clouds, a thick mist of sticky rain and a shrill, howling northerly wind.
Walking on the beach by my apartment in Malahide in Dublin, I was doubled over, head down, ploughing through the lashing rain. My ears stung red and cold, and my fingertips were borderline frostbitten. It felt like November.
This time last year, I was probably at a barbeque or a day-long street party in New York, basking in the sun with a cold beer in my hand. It looks like I’m about to embark on a very different summer here.
Here are some of the top differences between these two summer experience.
First, the beaches. In Ireland I grew up in the countryside so most of our summer days were spent frolicking in fields, climbing trees and terrorizing cattle.
However, on the weekends we would bundle into cars with buckets, spades and picnic boxes full of ham sandwiches and drive the 45 minutes to the beach, convoy-style. These were proper long, white (greyish) sandy beaches with cliffs, rock-pools and a deadly surf.
We would spend hours in the sea, learning how to dive under waves and often donning wetsuits to swim by the cliffs and leap from (in hindsight, very dangerous) heights into the sea. It was exhilarating, exciting and exhausting.
Having wolfed down some lukewarm sandwiches and blackcurrant cordial – all full of sand – we would pile back into the car hot, sticky, salty and entirely tuckered out. It was the dream.
Nowadays when I go to the beach in Ireland, it’s not far off my childhood experiences. We swim, we eat bad picnic food, we get everything covered in sand and we get embarrassingly sun burned – only now there’s probably some wine cooling in the picnic box.
In New York, the beach experience was somewhat different. The 45 minute drive I was usually accustomed to became a 90 minute subway journey in sweltering heat. The fresh clean spray of the ocean became a murky human soup with no space to swim.
The joyous cries of seagulls became the buzz-kill yells of 5,000 jock lifeguards. The blissful silence became a cheesy reggae band or a terrible stand-up comedian, and all that fresh air you were craving is suddenly filled with hot cigarette smoke. It was a big hot mess.
The few times I went to the beach in New York, I was only allowed to swim a few yards before the lifeguards were basically dragging me back out again. Where was the snorkling and the cliff jumping and the freedom?
The beach felt like a bad theme park. I was not impressed.
One weekend we went to Conneticut to stay with friends, and there I got my dream beach experience back. We did have to sneak around the lifeguards a bit so we could actually swim, but the fishing boats and small-town vibes were much more my speed.
Second summertime difference? Sunshine. New York has it and Ireland (so it seems) doesn’t.
When I was younger I know it was a lot more consistent. We did spend all that time at the beach, and there is strong photographic evidence that I used to tan as a child which means there must have been some pretty strong sunshine going on.
We had a few terrible years. Then back in 2013 it all seemed to turn around again.
It’s just highly unpredictable in Ireland. You need to leave the house with a raincoat, a bikini, an umbrella and sunglasses.
The weather forecast here is like a funny, pointless joke. If you don’t like the weather, just wait five or 10 minutes. It will probably change.
Last year in New York, after that heinous winter we had, I think we were all ready for the heat to come. Craving it. Begging for it.
I remember those first few days when it broke, leaving every door and window open in work and at home, lying out like a cat on every surface absorbing every single ray of delicious warm light. I even stalled on buying an air conditioner until it was completely unbearable because I felt like the winter had actually frozen my innermost organs and they were in dire need of a severe defrosting.
I didn’t care that every inch of me was sweating uncontrollably. I was so happy to feel the heat.
Now as I sit at my desk wearing a SCARF on the 1st of June and I scroll though Facebook seeing pictures of everyone in Brooklyn on rooftops wearing short shorts and flip flops, I die a little inside. Please pack up some of that sun and ship it our way?
Another difference. The tan. On a personal level, there is no difference here. I tan nowhere, because I simply do not let myself.
My mother used to be as ghostly pale as me, but back when she was young it was all the rage to lie outside and baste yourself in olive oil like a turkey. So now she is in a more permanent state of brown-ish with some fairly severe skin damage.
Needless to say this has put the fear of God in me, so I lather myself from head-to-toe in Factor 50 no matter where I am, or how embarrassed I have been by my ultraviolet paleness.
In New York, I was just as pale as I am now due to aforementioned sun-blockage. I moved in the shade and the shadows, like a superhero/stray cat.
I did get murderously sunburned one afternoon in Vermont and sported a bright red chest for about three weeks which was very fetching, but then spent the rest of the summer practically wearing polo-necks.
The thing about women in New York is that they are just generally more au naturel than women in Ireland. All my New York City female friends wore hardly any make up, and would never have dreamed of wearing fake tan.
After sweaty shifts of bar tending, they would put on a quick lick of lipstick and tousle their hair a bit. Done. Gorgeous.
In Ireland, getting ready is a day-long activity which often begins with layers of fake tan. Spray it on, smear it on, sunbed it on – doesn’t matter once you don’t look horribly pale and Irish.
For some people, they would tan naturally if we were ever exposed to direct sunlight, so they can pull it off. On me, because I have almost no melatonin in my pasty, pasty skin, I end up looking like a Crayola crayon so had to bow out of this ritual early on in life.
For most, they just look like great big bottles of Fanta orange crashing around leaving mucky, curry scented stains on everything they touch. If Ireland could just get a little more sunshine, and a lot more beach-worthy weather, then maybe we could abolish this hideous tradition of tangerine lacquer.
If we could just combine the New York weather and the Irish beaches, we would be living the dream.