Written on: 17. 11. 2011 in the category: news

Kevin Myers: Well, that hurricane took us a little unawares, 400 dead and much of Connacht missing

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RASPBERRIES are growing in my garden, rich as grapes in Bordeaux. The first game-bags of the shooting season probably contain as many humming birds as pheasant.

This time last year, a new Ice Age had arrived. November 2011, and the swallows are assembling off the Wexford coast, wondering if they might be allowed back for the winter.

Who would be a weather forecaster in Ireland? No one thanks you for getting it right – no one even remembers – but they will certainly blame you for getting it wrong.

And if you’re right, and the weather is awful, then they blame you as much as they would if you’d got it wrong. Which brings us to one of the earliest psychiatric classifications made by Freud.

During his trips to London, he had noticed a new social phenomenon: stamp-collecting football hooligans. These people had fetishes for detail, wonderfully scientific minds and incredible memories, but were never quite so happy as with a length of grandstand in one hand and the head of a rival football supporter in the other, meanwhile clapping vigorously.

Initially, he named them psychophilatelists. Later, he called them meteorologists. Meteorologists have to be really, really odd, with a peculiar appetite for complex science accompanied with massive climactic violence.

Consider where our Met people live: Glasnevin. Now government departments simply don’t live on the northside of Dublin. Marlborough Street, they can just about manage: it is their West Bank. But to set up in Glasnevin, as Met Eireann did, is rather like Zionist settlers opening a synagogue in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, the natives gazing with blank hostile eyes as the weather-folk – with an austere, challenging manner – strut into work each morning, their 9mm automatic barometers (the safety-catches off ) hanging jauntily from their shoulders.

The analogy doesn’t end there. For the first decades of broadcasting in Ireland, the evening weather-slot sounded like a Hebrew class from the Chief Rabbi. Listeners didn’t have a clue what was being said, as the Met Eireann scientists resembled Old Testament Prophets intoning about Isiah bar Simon bar Onan bar. . . et cetera: known generically as isobars.

So for years, viewers remained wholly ignorant of the forthcoming weather, while Met Eirean gabbled on in the ancient dialects of Old Samaria. Then a Martin Luther appeared, hammered some theses on the doors of Glasnevin, and weather forecasters began to speak a species of English.

Now, it’s relatively easy being a weather forecaster in most of the US, where their seasons are measured on the calendar; July hot, December cold. In Ireland, where the weather is as deranged as the people who try to forecast it, such simple rules don’t apply.

Polar ice-caps one November: raspberries a year later. Also, met-folk in Ireland have to be versatile in describing rain. If they just said, “Lashing all day tomorrow, as usual,” they may as well hand their job over to the lissom, pouting, miniskirted, Hello Sailor AA Roadwatch Girls.

So they have to put breadth and variety into their prognostications. “There’ll be heavy downfalls at dawn, but these will moderate into unbroken showers for the rest of the morning, followed by continued precipitation in early afternoon.

Towards evening, the rain should become steadier, with more to follow until midnight. In the early hours of the morning, the heavy rainclouds will ensure no break in the weather until dawn, when a fresh front coming in from the Atlantic HERE will bring in more rain.

The long-term forecast: dull, overcast, heavy rainfalls, to be followed by an unbroken downpour, and this will be succeeded by a general precipitation over most of the island, with the exception of Connemara, where it will be very wet.”

Of course, the great change in meteorologists’ lives has come from the politicisation of their science. Weather – when called climate – is now very sexy. Everyone – save me – has a stance on it: even three-year-olds can tell you solemnly that the molar hares are endangered by glottal swarming. So suddenly, Met Eireann people are at the cutting edge of fashionable political theory. BUT hold on. These people tend to have strange stares, and a fondness for chainsaws: Freud always went armed in their company.

Yes, they can calculate the consequences of El Nino turning right, charging down the Panama Canal, and having his way with the Gulf Stream against a Caribbean wall. But will they warn you in time of the calamitous offspring such a coupling generates? Won’t they actually prefer to admit – as they choke back an orgasm or two – “Well, yes, that hurricane took us a little unawares, 400 dead and much of Connacht missing.

But my, the weather is looking quite promising for the remaining 29 counties.” For when it’s not raining here, it’s endlessly changeable, as like Captain Nolan, we daily charge into the valley of death that is the Atlantic weather system. And sometimes it is not death, or even rain, but soft ripe fruit still growing on the cane barely a month short of Christmas. A year ago it was icebergs. So just how mad must you be to want to predict the future amid so much unreasonable, unseasonable chaos?

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