Fighting a losing battle against midges and hot tar

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m gradually turning into a grumpy old man but one evening last week at around 9pm as I completed footing a line of turf in Abbey bog, I wiped the sweat of my brow and said to myself: “I wish to God that this heat would ease off.”

Now, I know full well that’s a complaint that won’t elicit even a morsel of sympathy for me after all the dank and dreary Summers that we’ve endured over the years, but heat like we had last week, I’m just not able for.

Earlier that evening as I drove on my usual backroads home from work, the tar was bubbling up on the road near Peggy’s of Aughclogeen close to Corrandulla, bringing back memories of walking home from school on similar type days back in the 1960s.

Hot tar bubbles on the road would be pricked and then gathered up, just as we did with marla in the school classroom, and with the passing of years, we all conned ourselves into believing that this happened every Summer.

Our temperatures may on average have increased over the past 30 to 40 years, but all the records point to Irish Summers invariably presenting us with a mixed bag of weather. That’s probably why we’re always inclined to remember fondly the odd good one we get.

The Summer of 1975 – most of which I spent inside in the then Digital building in Ballybrit – had a prolonged dry spell. Indeed, I recall a Friday evening, probably in late July or early August, when the rains returned as a group of us exited the building, in a state of semi-shock at seeing the arrival of those water droplets falling from the sky.

Things got even better the following year, 1976, in one of our really cracking Summers, that brought us a period of high pressure from June through to August and in the process also gave us the highest temperature of the 20th century: 32.5° Celsius, in Boora, Offaly, on June 29 of that year.

That Summer, does only seem like yesterday, and sometimes I have to pinch myself and say: “Could that really be 42 years ago?” but alas it could, and often, maybe our fond and nostalgic memories of good weather in our childhood is really a yearning for those days of youth that we will never experience again.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.