Northern Ireland folk can be a peculiar bunch at the best of times.
All winter long, we suffer dreary days of wind and rain; cold, frosty mornings and have the heat blaring all day long if we can, put on ‘the big coat’ if we even think about venturing out.
“Aye, we could do with a decent summer,” we say to those in the shops we meet in passing conversation.
Take my mother, for example. On Wednesday night, it was the bi-weekly check-in ‘how’s everyone doing’ phone call.
“How are you sticking this heat? I can’t stick this heat,” were the first words uttered from the other end of the line. “We haven’t gone out for two days. It’s tiring, this heat.”
All winter long, families save up for ‘a week in the sun’. Maybe a trip to Spain, Portugal, the south of France. A wee bit of sun therapy for the soul.
Every year, millions of pounds are spent by families from Northern Ireland to jet off and experience the sunshine and temperatures we had right here this week.
That blast of warmth on your face as you descend the steps of the plane on arrival in Tenerife has to be one of the most delightful things in the world.
In Tenerife, 30 degrees feels like 30 degrees. In Majorca, 30 degrees feels like 30 degrees. We dare not show our face when we get back home unless we’ve had a good roasting. We buy extra water to stay hydrated. The kids are on ice lollies every half an hour as the Euros tumble out of our swim shorts. We do it because we want to, not because we have to.
But 30 degrees for a few days running in Northern Ireland and we’re being dragged into the pit of a volcano. Satan himself is laughing as the world boils around us.
We do love a good old moan about it all.
But before you turn to someone and say “stop complaining about the sunshine”, bear in mind one fact that separates the heat in Lanzarote from the heat along the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
The person you are talking to probably has to work through it.
When we head off to viva Espana, we know what we’re likely to get. We’re mentally ready for long, hot days in the sun. And what’s more, we will be lying by the pool, or sitting on a beach, with nothing much more to do than sip a cool drink, dip toes in the water to cool down. We’ve left behind the trials of everyday life at home.
So if someone says to me this week, ‘Sure you’d rather be here in this than in Spain’, I’ll look at them and raise my eyebrows.
Give me 28 degrees in Spain instead of 31 degrees in Northern Ireland. At least there, I’ll probably have a pool to jump into rather than a hot, sticky room where the curtains are pulled to keep the sunlight off the laptop and can sample the delights of an ice cold beer whenever I want.
Another of my mother’s well-worn phrases popped up in conversation last night.
“There’s a happy medium,” she said. A refreshing cool breeze in the evening would be a nice way to round off a hot, sunny day. Something to help sleep at night.
For now, it’s quite nice to hear ‘it’s parful warm’, watch as others ‘sweat buckets’ and see the lads with their ‘taps aff’ around the town (there are drawbacks I suppose).
I shan’t be complaining about the heat. It’s the not being lucky enough to have booked the week off to enjoy it properly that annoys.