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Picture of the week: Is that a surfboard... or a snowboard?

By Matthew McCreary

From a distance, you'd be forgiven for mistaking these snow-streaked dunes at Portrush with the white horses thundering ashore from the churning Atlantic Ocean.

It's only the presence of a lone figure - local pro surfer Alastair Mennie, poised expectantly with his board - which reveals the fact that this is one of Northern Ireland's favourite beaches in the throes of winter.

But then Northern Ireland is that rare kind of place which can look utterly enthralling, even amid the savagery of nature.

And what savagery there was this week, as we were buffeted by a hard-hitting cold weather front, at various times serving up high winds, rain, sleet and snow, with roads blocked, schools shut and transport services affected.

While nowhere near the scale of the snowfall which enveloped the province during 2010, this week's battering gave us a sharp reminder that, whatever the human squabbles among us, we are often at the mercy of awesome forces we cannot ever hope to control or tame.

This was brought home all too tragically with the death of a motorist after a tree fell onto his van in Lisburn. Meanwhile, in Belfast two teenage girls were injured after being blown into the side of a bus by high winds.

Such weather always seems a distant memory when we're in the midst of the rosy glow of summer, as will hopefully be the case when thousands of day trippers and tourists bask in the sunshine on this very same stretch of sand in a few months' time. But for all its challenges, there is a still a great beauty to be found in nature in its rawest form, and to that end perhaps it's never best to wish it away too soon.

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