There is a long held, though now largely discredited, cliché about the number of words that the Inuit and Alaska native peoples have for snow. It ranges from 10 to 50 depending on to whom you happen to be talking. Though that particular fun fact, a favourite of romantics far and wide, may have turned out to be an exaggeration, it is no overestimation to say that in Ireland there are least twenty ways to describe rain.
These terms form part of a wider conversationally important meteorological lexicon. They describe and quantify the intensity of every shower in the manner of Charles Richter’s earthquake scale and include but are not limited to the following:
‘Spitting’ - occasional light spots of rain, also known as ‘trying to rain’. This is the Irish modus operandi… no need for alarm.
‘Mizzle’ - persistent light rain. Again, no disruption to normal activities.
‘Warm Rain’ - many a gritty sandwich has been consumed during these light summer showers under the shelter of a golf umbrella upon a grey and blustery beach. Only weaklings recently moved over from the sunnier 'clims' would allow this type of rain to get in the way of any seasonal outdoor activity. “You don’t need a wetsuit for goodness sake - it’s only warm rain!”
‘Wet Rain’ - increased volume and intensity. Your hair and clothes are definitely going to get wet. A coat would definitely be preferred but a Lidl shopping bag over your head might have to do.
‘Stair-rods’ - getting serious now. Fat, heavy drops of rain falling with determination. Worth pausing at the window to stare at it. Certainly conversation-worthy at the tills.
‘Bucketing’ - heavy rain, unusually with an unexpected element i.e. “it was fine this morning and now it’s bucketing!”
‘Lashing’ - umbrellas will be slaughtered. Go outdoors at your peril. The nation remains indoors sighing dolefully at the window: “It was supposed to be a better day today.”
‘Hammering’ - The rain is now so heavy and that everyone is briefly excited by the drama. How can there be this much water in the sky? “Look! The street has turned into a tidal estuary!”
‘Summer’ usually means weeks of temperate weather with average temperatures of 14ºC and daily showers falling somewhere between ‘spitting’ and ‘warm rain’ and sometimes subsiding into 24 hour periods of ‘stair-rods’ to ‘lashing’.
If there happens to be a sunny day, the entire country comes to a standstill. Natives must absorb a year’s worth of vitamin D in a few short hours. This leads to a devil-may-care approach to sunscreen, which, combined with often distinctly pastel skin-tone, has a directly proportional relationship to increased sunstroke related A&E admissions and Sudocream sales as people attempt to stick the peeling skin back on to their parboiled bodies.
This year, however, the ‘one sunny day’ in June stretched to three, and then a week, then a month. Before we knew it, July had arrived without so much as a light smattering of the wet stuff. The nation spent every spare moment at the beach, barbecued everything in their freezer, suffered sun-madness and exhaustion from trying to continue daily activities at the usual pace, tossed and turned each night away, and eventually when the glowing yellow ball of light hanging in the sky showed no sign of disappearance, simply got used to it. The sun stayed for so long it wasn’t even conversation-worthy anymore. What to talk about at the tills when the sky each day was simply an unbroken blue expanse without so much as a cloud to categorise? No-one knew.
In celebration of this new-found Mediterranean lifestyle, and having already dusted off the garden furniture, filled the paddling pool and having cooked every meal on the BBQ for 10 days in a row, I decided that it was time to put the new wildlife pond together and link up the swanky waterfall box I had ordered off the internet. In undertaking this project I vastly underestimated how little I knew about how hard it is to make an aesthetically pleasing pile of rocks, with a waterfall box complete with functional pump hidden in the middle, in temperatures topping 30ºC. Atmospheric conditions soon transitioned from ‘fair’ to ‘distinctly tetchy’.
I spent an entire afternoon lugging heavy, dusty boulders around, reading instructions which seemed to have been poorly translated from Klingon, not to mention periodically falling into the pond liner. This comedy of errors was frequently peppered by my retreating to the shade to reassess the situation, mop my sweltering brow, and take the opportunity to once again curse the many many hose connector pieces. The waterfall box contained around 473 of them (at the last conservative estimate) but after painstakingly trying every single one I had to come to the painful conclusion that not a single one fitted the pump that I had bought.
Of course they didn’t. I have come to realise that every single DIY project follows the same 10-step trajectory:
- Ambitious dream.
- Trip to DIY store.
- Breathless return to house clutching boxes.
- Three hours of reading instructions.
- Attempted installation.
- Cataclysmic event.
- Burning of instructions and refocusing of resources on trying to fix cataclysmic event.
- Just about getting away with it.
- Superglueing remaining pieces together.
- Lying in darkened room for two days.
Eventually, and by this time suffering from advanced heatstroke, I managed to get the water pump to actually pump water from the pond and though the waterfall box. I watched the water tumbling tranquilly into the pool below and sighed a smug and contented sigh. The relief was so great it was almost worth the piercing headache and blurred vision. At this point, however, and with a sense of deep dread, I noticed something glinting in the sunlight. The glinting thing seemed to be creeping outwards into the garden from the pond area. Inside the pool the waterline also seemed to be mysteriously dropping. Further investigation revealed the awful truth: the tanking that I had painstakingly installed round the waterfall was leaking and the pump was slowly but surely pumping the contents of the pond out onto the lawn instead of recycling it back into the liner as intended.
At this point I had a breakdown inside my head. I didn’t have the energy to have an actual outward breakdown because I was severely dehydrated and my head felt like I had inadvertently knocked some tent pegs into it. So, I simply switched off the pump and stomped off indoors, inwardly waging war on wildlife ponds, fountains and all associated water features.
I often find that when projects go wrong a protracted period of ignoring can help. When passions and frayed nerves have cooled then it may be time to try again. In the case of the wildlife pond I had a feeling that the ignoring period might be lengthy. The hurt had been too great for a swift reconciliation. In the meantime, the heat was gradually causing the disgraced and inactive wildlife pond to turn into green gloop. It was much closer in nature to a stagnant murky swampland than the shady verdant rill I had imagined in my mind’s eye. Instead of dragonflies hoovering delicately about the surface of the water there was a significant number of enthusiastic bluebottles.
However, nature had other plans. An unfortunate by-product of the heatwave was the first hosepipe ban in 23 years. This came as a cruel blow at Thompson Towers since I had only just planted around 200 new plants in the newly completed garden. I had also just seeded a new lawn which had germinated precisely six days before the ban came into force.
Inevitably the contents of the paddling pool soon had to be sacrificed in the cause of keeping the new lawn alive. Small one was not impressed by this turn of events. Her ‘help’ with dipping watering cans into the water and ferrying it to the lawn lasted for approximately four minutes. After the padding pool had been emptied there was nothing else for it but a daily two hours of arduous hand watering. This involved filling a large trug of water from the tap, then pushing it in the wheelbarrow to where it was needed. The lawn, whilst not exactly flourishing, was just about surviving. Whilst clearly, and quite appropriately, my garden did not weigh particularly heavily in the scales of a national emergency, it was nevertheless a sweaty and irritating task to complete several times a day.
One particularly blistering morning I unwillingly stepped outside to begin the watering marathon. The sun was high, even at that time of day, and my eye inevitably fell on the sun lounger, sitting invitingly empty underneath the shade of a parasol. Surely a little break couldn’t hurt? But what about the lawn? I could almost hear it audibly shrivelling in the heat, each tiny baby blade of grass crying ‘water’ in a pathetically small and exhausted voice.
So you can imagine my great rejoicing when only a few short moments later, I found myself contentedly reclining on the sun lounger with a cool drink at my side. Just in the nick of time, inspiration had struck.
From a little way off across the patio, amidst the contented sound of midsummer birdsong, a low humming noise could now be discerned. From the comfort of my chair, I took a sip of my drink, ice cubes chiming pleasingly against the side of the glass, and contentedly watched the glinting trail steadily creeping through the fragile thin green sward. The soil released a very pleasant hot, dry scent as the much-needed stream of water soaked in. Now I came to think about the situation, it really was quite amazing how efficiently the pump was emptying the contents of the pond unto even the farthest reaches of the lawn. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it before.
‘Modern engineering at it’s best,’ I thought as I reclined a little farther and tipped my hat over my face. Now, time for a siesta.
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