It rains in Ireland. It rains a lot. You may have heard this somewhere along the way. I can tell you it’s true.
The Irish are resigned to this state of affairs. “Sure, isn’t it the only weather we have?” they’ll say. Resignation in the face of Mother Nature seems the only possible course.
I remember years ago during our early trips to Ireland watching the weather forecast on RTE, the national television service, which was still broadcasting in black and white. At that time, the forecaster was a short, balding, middle-aged man wearing an ill-fitting suit and rimless eyeglasses. He sighed a lot.
“There’s a new front moving in from the west on Monday next,” he’d begin, using a map of Ireland and a wooden pointer to indicate the west coast, “bringing periods of rain,” (sigh) “followed by lashing rain,” (heavy sigh) “before a soft rain on Tuesday” (hopeful sigh).
“There might be a few sunny spells on Wednesday,” he’d say, perking up a little and attempting a weak smile, “before another rain front moves in on the Thursday” (anguished sigh).
At that point, his shoulders would start to shake and I worried that he might break into inconsolable sobs.
The forecasters are more professional now: younger, better dressed, with interactive maps, green screens, and all the bells and whistles of modern meteorology. They even sound chipper.
It still rains.
But it is part of the charm of living here. It will rain most days, but not all day. It may rain for a few minutes and then miraculously turn into brilliant sunshine. The other day we were walking down our lane and I was squinting against the bright sun, wishing I had my sunglasses, and all the while a light rain was falling.
Once, and I swear I’m not making this up, I was walking from our garden to the house – a distance of perhaps twenty meters – and it was raining on my left arm but not my right.
Last week we were chatting over the wall with the old fellow who lives on the farm near the end of the lane. “Sure, it’s a fine day,” he said, “if you don’t mind the weather.”
So we adapt and learn the various types of rain we might encounter.
Like the Inuit and snow, the Irish have many ways to describe the rain. Here are a few:
“Grand Soft Day” – This is usually followed by the phrase “Thanks be to God.” It’s humid and a bit grey and could potentially rain. In other words, it’s a normal day.
“Soft Rain” – This is a light mist, approaching a drizzle. Pay it no mind.
“Sun Shower” – See the description of our walk above and be prepared for a rainbow. Not to be confused with “Sunny Spells.”
“Could Rain” – It’s cloudy and the clouds look like they might have some rain in them.
“Spitting” – A light rain that shouldn’t stop you from normal activities – shopping, walking, going to the beach, for example.
“Pissing” – Definitely coming down now. You might need the wipers on the windscreen.
“Buckets” – A heavy sudden storm of short duration. It may be prudent to nip into the pub until it passes.
“Pelting” – A heavy rain that is sustained. You might want to use an umbrella, but you never carry one. Put the hood up on the jacket instead.
“Lashing” – Bouncing off the ground, soaking you to the knees. That umbrella you don’t carry would be destroyed for sure.
“Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph” – Bolt the front door. Consider starting a fire. Brew the tea. Maybe have a small whiskey.
All of these types of rain can happen in a single day or even a single hour.
And then, when you think you may never leave the house again, the glorious Irish sun comes out, glinting off the wet fields and the sea, and you say to everyone you meet:
“Isn’t it a fine day altogether?”