A friend of mine was in prison in France one time. It was admittedly a rather long time. Years later when I bumped into him I asked what it was like. To be in prison? In France?
‘Was there’ I asked ‘any difference between being in prison in France and being in prison in Ireland?’
As you may deduce from the question he had a comprehensive and varied penal CV.
He paused for a long pregnant and silent period of cogitation before eventually replying.
‘Nobody talked about the weather’.
There you have it. In a sentence. The difference between the French and the Irish. Or indeed between the Irish and everyone else. We are obsessed by the weather. We are also weather pessimists. We anticipate the worst.
Many times on a fine sunny day I have remarked to whoever I was with ‘Isn’t it a great day’.
‘Aye’ would come the reply ‘but it’s not gonna last’.
‘There’s rain due later.’
‘The forecast is for bad weather’.
RG is the worst. Especially during last week’s snownami. We were in Dublin. But even before we got there he started. We were leaving Dundalk.
‘We should get home again for Thursday’. I said to him.
‘We’ll be back before that’ he replied, ‘The Beast from the East is due. Gonna be baddest snow storm since 1982’.
‘Beast from the East? I queried.
‘Yup’ he scowled ‘and Storm Emma is due as well so I’m not hanging about. First sign of a blizzard I’m heading North again. I got caught in a blizzard once. Once is once too many times.’
I said nothing. We drove on. I returned to reading my notes.
RG broke the silence.
‘The wind is picking up’ he said.
I ignored him.
‘Very dark clouds over the Airport’ he muttered.
Minutes later I looked up absentmindedly from my work and peered at the windscreen.
‘It’s very dark but at least its dry’ I observed positively.
‘That’s cos we’re in the bloody Port Tunnel’ he hissed.
‘Ha ha’ I chortled ‘so we are. I’m a Silly Billy’.
‘You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face if we get stranded on the side of the road’.
‘It’s Motorway the whole way up and down’ I responded. ‘Safe as can be’.
Truth to tell I was hurt by his aggressiveness, by his lack of comradeship. We exited the Tunnel and the skies opened.
‘Snowmagaddon’ RG swore under his breath!
‘The sooner we head for home the better. I don’t want stranded in Dublin’.
‘But we are here for four days anyway’. I reminded him.
‘Not if it snows!’ RG countered. ‘I’m not chancing driving through a blizzard. I’ve already told you that’.
I felt like Scott of the Antarctic.
‘The Liffey is very high’ RG exclaimed.
So it was but I wasn’t going to admit that. Not with him in the mood he was in. By the time we got to Teach Laighean the media was one long weather forecast dominated by Government ministers led by An Taoiseach. When we got to the Dáil the carpark was shrouded in snow. The wind was bitter cold. It would cut you in two.
When we got into the office RG was relieved to hear the Dáil would probably be shut down. I tried to stop him building up his hopes.
‘Remember we had rumours every week in Long Kesh about the place closing down’.
‘This isn’t the Kesh’ he reminded me. ‘our aim has to be to get up the road ahead of the storm’.
‘We shouldn’t have swapped the blue skies of Ulster for the grey skies of .........’ I chided him.
The next day we were on our way back home. Unlike rumours in the Kesh the Leinster House ones came to be true. Mostly because the inmates voted for closure. At least till the storms passed.
As we sped North of Dundalk I remarked that I couldn’t see the Cooleys.
‘That’s cos it’s snowing.’ RG asserted.
‘But I can see Sliabh Gullion’ I mused.
‘That’s cos it’s gonna snow!’ He retorted.
And so it did. He dropped me home and sped off into the night. Without a word of farewell. Not a ‘slán’ or an ‘oiche mhaith’.
‘Mush’ I shouted after his tail lights.
Hopefully our next journey will be less eventful. The calm after the storm. If he is in better form
I might have a wee word with RG about the way he treats me. Since I stood down as Uachtarán he is less tolerant of me. It’s like he is getting his own back. For the life of me I don’t know why. Yup I think I will have a wee yarn with him. For his own sake. At least it will give us something to talk about. When we’re not talking about the weather.