If there is one thing we can learn from the recent ‘cold snap’, as it has been very inappropriately called, it’s that we really need to lighten up and sometimes just go with the flow. (If you had some major drama like a bad fall, a burst pipe or a crashed car then, fair enough, you have a license for a bit of gripe. However if you’ve just been a bit inconvenienced and chilly you have no excuse.) I am particularly allergic to the reports of how much it has cost the country in terms of productivity. What is the point of such a depressing calculation? We can’t get the time back, it’s gone forever; the milk is spilled/horse has bolted/use your own cliché. One analyst sounded quite orgasmic as he informed that we could have lost up to 500million euro due to absenteeism! Another report assures us that it will ‘cost the taxpayer’ in overtime, gritting expenses and damage. Everything ‘costs the taxpayer’. We’re paying through the nose for banks and politicians so what difference does a few thousand tonnes of grit, petrol for the snow plough and more pot hole repair really make?
The main problem is that Irish people are born with the indigenous Anti-Weather Extremes gene. We like a nice balance in temperature and anything out of the ordinary just upsets us. It’s rather strange considering we are also a country totally obsessed with weather. Indeed many a good conversation has revolved around the elements and walking away from some people you would be forgiven for believing that if it wasn’t for the weather you would have absolutely nothing to say to them, ever! When it comes to extreme weather, no matter how often it happens in a given century, we are always caught unawares and laughed at by nations who deal with it all the time. The grit supplies will arrive at the end of January and some will even invest in snow tyres and other related stuff but it will be far too late. The snow will have melted and when it happens again in another 10 years we’ll be back to square one. By then we will have forgotten the lessons of this experience and the chaos will ensue all over again. We have the same difficulties when we hit those really hot patches the odd summer. People die of the heat, things melt and cause problems and farmers complain of the drought.
Too hot or too cold, we don’t have the mentality for it, the clothes for it or the true grit needed to get through it without some kind of break down. The madness manifests in many ways. I had one friend who telephoned me last week to declare angrily, “I’m just sick of it now. Enough is enough”, as if it was a case of just switching it off or if God was indeed listening he would be suitably admonished and not send anymore. We also happily lose complete sense of style. I went to the supermarket over the weekend looking like a demented pixie in my little hat that sat too high on my head, my oversized scarf, mismatched coat and ugly flat boots. No one looked twice and I cared less; I was warm. Then there is the very distracting giddy window obsession. Snow has a particularly poor effect on the Irish psyche, immediately reducing mental age within seconds. Grown adults constantly find themselves at windows with a million exciting questions: will it land, will it stay, is it still snowing, can I really not go to work? We constantly implore others in the household to come and “look”. It is never that different to the previous time you called everyone to “look”, ten minutes previously. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone’s garden looks fabulous in the snow. We listen incessantly to the weather forecasts on radio and TV. While it is the same warning repeated on every bulletin, by listening to it six times in a row then the weather in our minds becomes six times worse than it actually is! This then impacts our thinking and it leads to the mad shopping. While in Tesco on Saturday I watched as trolleys were filled to the brim and siege mentality took over. The vegetable section had gaping empty holes where full crates of produce had once resided and the entire chicken section of the chill cabinet was bare, bar 4 lonely chickens. People were setting themselves up for months indoors, not one or two days of hard weather. Let’s face it -3 or -4 degrees is practically tropical in some countries where they have real winters. 10 cm of snow for a few days would be considered bikini weather in parts of Sweden, America and Canada.
Knickers in a twist
Then there were the calls for the government to ‘do something’. We lambasted Noel Dempsey for not being here and not doing anything then we had a go at Batt O’Keeffe for being here and doing something! To save confusion he declared three days off school across the land and in return many parents got their knickers in a twist and lost the plot over childcare. I thought it was an education system, not a babysitting service! Lighten up for God’s sake. Instead of griping they could have just taken the kids out, built a snowman, threw some snowballs and had some fun. On your deathbed you won’t be sorry about the work days you missed and you might just be glad that the family will remember you for the fun snow sculpture you all built during the ‘cold snap’ in January 2010. We should have taken pictures of ourselves in our mismatched clothing and chunky layers as we slipped and skidded our way around. When things get tough during the year we can whip them out and at least have something to laugh about. As the book says, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. Lighten up.