“When’s a good time to visit Dublin?”, a friend wrote to me recently. I laughed. Since that question nearly always inquires as to periods of good weather, you can understand my amusement.
Ireland has a temperate climate. Or, that should be ‘temperamental’? If one could claim that Irish seasons exist, Spring and Autumn would be the general, vague appellations. Other countries have seasons. The components that are traditionally believed to make a Summer or Winter don’t materialise to the requisite degree here in Ireland. Actually, the same could even be said of Spring or Autumn.
For in Spring, nature’s poor performance in Ireland has to be artistically enhanced by daffodils which have been planted by the institutions and those endeavouring to instil optimism. And for Autumn, well, you don’t really get the ‘Autumn Leaves’ that Sinatra, Piaf, Jones and others have been singing of – leaves ‘of red and gold’ - instead, we get soggy, half-decomposed, mucky-brown leaves. You’ll ruin your shoes if you try to kick them. They’re not colourful, they’re not light, and they’re not bright. That is, of course, unless Ireland has one of her ‘periods’.
Irish weather is really punctuated by these ‘periods’ rather than by any ‘seasons’. You’d be wise to accept this now lest you suffer successive disappointing summer ‘seasons’. If Autumn has a ‘period’, the weather will be curiously dry, which means the Irish Autumn leaves will appear more like ‘Autumn leaves’. Dry, kickable, colourful, cheerful. What joy when that happens! Oh yes, we always love one of these ‘periods’, and not least in Summer!
“Question 4 (a). ‘An Irish Summer’, describe this paradox. Explain the various connotations of this phrase that are conjured by the author.”
More than any other ‘season’, Summer comes to Ireland in discernible periods. ‘Heat waves’, they’re called, funnily enough. They arrive when you need them least – exam or school time.
The first summer ‘period’ occurs at the end of May and may last into the second week of June. This is when the kids are doing exams and have to study, inside.
The second summer ‘period’ arrives sometime in August, though sometimes in July.
And the third, and last, summer ‘period’ peeks out at the beginning of September. This is when the schools are back. A torment for the children.
Old folks tell of a time when summer came in season form... Failing memory, that’s what I put it to.
In ‘Winter’, it does get colder and darker, but only snows for seven days in total or less (or else you’re in the mountains). The snowfall on those days is merely an inch or two. And, because of the perennial wet climate, the coruscating, delicate snowflake is cruelly murdered the instant it touches any surface. With that, children’s hopes melt as well. Once or twice, the snow will be as plentiful (up to four inches or approx. 12cm), and it will be cold enough, for the snow to remain on the ground for at least two days. And then the kids are out: attacking cars with snowballs, building snowmen or giant snowballs as quick as they possibly can – these must stand and survive as long as they can - reminders that winter had arrived. And the size of these monuments reflects how glorious a winter was experienced in the realm.
"So, that's the weird thing about Irish weather, my friend - we never know when it's a good time to visit Ireland or just Dublin. Often, the Irish weather tends to be great when you've just left Ireland. The welcome weather arrives when she's least needed, ironically."
If, however, my friend wasn’t talking about the weather, then the best time to visit Dublin would be during one of the many festivals, which seem to creep up on Dubliners – they’re only identified when they’re half-way finished.
Failing that, the best time to come and see Dublin at its most splendid and most authentic would be either....
The middle to the end of the eighteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth century.
Make a note in your calendar.