by Frank Schnittger
Mon May 4th, 2020 at 02:04:15 PM EST
One of the reasons the lock down in Ireland has garnered less opposition than might be expected is that we are currently enjoying glorious May sunshine having had a much sunnier than average April. Temperatures of 10-15 degrees with an absolute max of 20 degrees recently may not seem like much to our European neighbours, but hey, this is Ireland, and we will take this kind of weather any day.
As I write my 6 month old grand daughter is enjoying her first outdoor bath in warmed water under a clear blue sky and a light breeze in blissful 12 degrees sunshine. Many Irish people regard 20 degrees as hot, and 25 degrees an almost unbearable heatwave. There is a reason our forebears migrated northwards out of Africa, but I have always wondered why the war loving Vikings focused on polar climes. Surely population and military pressures from the south couldn't have been that bad?
Of course Irish people have also often over-compensated by taking sunshine holidays in the Mediterranean, the better to get sunburn, sunstroke, and blissfully drunk. For me, as a child, a holiday wasn't a holiday unless it involved sunshine, swimming in warm water, and lots of outdoor activities in the heat. Mountain scenery or big city attractions were all very well for an excursion or two, but the real holiday began at the beach, whether seaside or lake, either in the nip or with just togs on.
The only time it got too hot was when you couldn't walk on the sand, or the cooling water was too far away. Even a pool would do, and aircon was a strange extravagance. Depending on whether it is sunny, windy or wet, anywhere between 10 and 30 degrees is within my comfort zone, but what I call "sea side weather" doesn't really start until 20 degrees, and the sea/lake water temperature has to be at least 18. A swimming pool doesn't really become an option until it reaches at least 20.
I have often wondered about the narrow temperature ranges we like to inhabit. My house, since we got it comprehensively insulated and powered by solar panels and a heat pump is always kept within the 18-20 degree range. Before that it used to be 18 degrees only in summer, with 15 degrees the norm in Spring and Autumn, and as little as 12 degrees in winter.
I can't imagine what it would be like to live in Siberia or some other northerly clime if there wasn't at least some place you could relax and warm up. We are a hardy race, to be sure, and people can get used to all sorts of extremes. But climate change threatens to make large parts of the world uninhabitable, what with rising sea levels, rising temperatures, droughts, storms, and large scale crop failures leading to famines.
So why is it that a species so sensitive to temperature plays so fast and lose with the global climate? Ireland is one of the few places on earth which could actually get colder if climate change stops the thermohaline circulation of the north Atlantic drift. Just our luck. We suffer badly enough from north Atlantic storms as it is. A little more stability in our weather patterns wouldn't go amiss ether, with many days exhibiting the characteristics of all four seasons in one day. Just yesterday I was stuck in a hail shower having departed the house avec avec petite-fille for my 1.5 KM lockdown walk in glorious sunshine.
No wonder the weather is the opening conversational gambit in almost all casual conversations in Ireland. Right now it is making the lock-down bearable, even pleasant, if you are lucky enough to live in a house and garden in the open countryside. I shudder to think of the impact on families with small children stuck in small apartments with inadequate balconies and little in the way of parks near by... Well, in fact I know some, and life isn't easy for them.
So in announcing a two week extension of the lockdown with only minor relaxations, the government felt compelled to issue a comprehensive 23 page, five stage, 15 week plan for exiting the lockdown to give some hope that this will all end soon - always accepting that a second spike in infections will result in a rapid reversal of these plans. So far the trends in national Covid-19 statistics have been hopeful (scroll down), and at least now people can plan for returning to work, re-opening their businesses, sending kids back to school and returning their lives to some semblance of normality.
Although no one believes that life will ever be quite the same again. Let's hope that longer term 'social distancing' doesn't lead to more social alienation, isolation and loneliness. The whole fabric of our society has been torn apart, with people not able to grieve their dead at the elaborate wakes and huge funerals traditional in Irish society. Weddings have been cancelled and all extended family celebrations put on hold. Businesses can recover, the weather may get better or worse. But I fear some good things in Irish society may have changed forever.