The May Bank Holiday weekend provides an opportunity to enjoy the comparatively good weather and some rest and relaxation before the hurly-burly begins again tomorrow.
After the recent downpours, a day without prolonged showers has been so rare that holiday-makers have been thankful for the sun of Saturday and part of yesterday without the troublesome raindrops falling incessantly on their heads.
Some people seek enjoyment in caravanning, gardening, leisurely walks or in other relatively undemanding pursuits. However, there is a hardy breed who finds fulfilment in strenuous ways, and not least in running the Belfast Marathon. Some of the participants are semi-professionals, but for all, including the non-professionals, who take part there is satisfaction in knowing that their personal training has been worthwhile. In many cases there is the added bonus of raising sizeable sums for charities.
The people with less stamina are able to enjoy themselves in the aptly-titled ‘Fun Run’. This is not a competition, but simply an opportunity for people to have ‘fun’. The idea of fun sometimes seems far-fetched in the traditionally dour Ulster psyche where hard work is the order of the day. However, the times are changing and our traditional parades, including those on St Patrick’s Day, have exhibited a commendable sense of fun and of community creativity. Even the organisers of the main Orange parades have been trying — not without success — to move on from the political grimness of the past.
So much depends, of course, on the Northern Ireland weather, where all four seasons can be represented in the course of one day. The concept of a “long, hot summer” has had its own Ulster connotations, but in the past two years the summers have been so bad here that people have required the utmost skill in guessing when merely to cut their lawns, while dodging the showers. However, there appears to be good news rather than rain-clouds on the horizon. The long-range weather forecast is for a hot summer, and even if such predictions are only around 68% valid, they give everyone a reason
to hope. The scientists have given their verdict, flawed or otherwise, but even the amateur weather forecasters are hoping for a better summer. These are the people who see significant trends in the patterns of frog-spawns in a pond or in evidence from crows, berries or other harbingers of better days.
Most people in Northern Ireland have heard it all before and will continue to keep their umbrellas handy, but they will also secretly cling on to the hope of brighter days. The May Bank Holiday weekend has been a bit like an average school report — “started well, but overall could have done better”. All too soon we will be back with the headlines about economic gloom, swine fever, the European elections and all the other reminders that there is a serious side to life. The main point about a holiday weekend is not just the weather, but the fact that it gives everyone a chance to relax and to dream about better days ahead. Whether they actually prove to be better or not is beside the point. This weekend, at least, we have all had our brief moments in the sun.