Monday, June 23, 2008

Rain magnets

Cartoon: Fergus Lynch

I’m beginning to think that either my wife or I is jinxed. The way that things are going, one or other of us, or maybe both, are going to be physically ejected midflight the next time we take Ryanair in the same way that Jonah was dumped overboard in the Bible as a harbinger of bad weather.
I suppose it started last year with the abysmal summer that we experienced here. Although, to be fair, it had its good points for I had a readymade excuse for not cutting the grass for months on end. But all in all, I’d have preferred to put in the hours for a patch of blue sky.
The only two good weeks in the whole year that were any way decent was the first fortnight in April, when two million burnt lobsters turned up for work, rubbing their hands and saying they had a feeling in their water that it was going to be a great summer.
And where were we during that halcyon fortnight? Why, we were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Orlando, where we had to make regular mad dashes for cover to escape sudden downpours and where the CNN news was full of “the coldest Easter since records began.”
But of course, that was just unfortunate.
In recent times, I have become a Ryanair junkie. Yes, the seats are ridiculously narrow and yes, the airports are sometimes nowhere near the places they purport to serve and yes, the fact that you have to pay a credit card handling charge per person each way is a rip-off, but the fact remains that they can get you to the furthest reaches of Europe for cheaper than the cost of a taxi from Dublin 15 to the airport.
Some people like to spend their money on home improvements. Others choose to buy new cars or eat out in restaurants. We treat ourselves with short trips at home and abroad.
As someone who can’t resist a bargain, I have consequently visited a lot of places on the Continent that would have hitherto been beyond my budget and I have dragged my wife around with me. We have enjoyed the delights of -25°C in Vilnius in January, blundered our way through springtime fog in Trieste and negotiated the interminable road works in Wroclaw. As someone who considers himself a good environmentalist, I do worry about this carbon footprint Achilles heel of mine and tell myself that the next trip is the last one but something tells me that cheap airfares won’t be around forever and I ought to make hay while the iron is hot..
Last October, to compensate ourselves for missing out on the two weeks of summer in early April, I booked us in for three nights in Pula in Croatia, a town now strangely removed from the airline’s list of destinations. The guide book assured me of very pleasant weather in October – not the oppressive heat of summer but like a nice spring day here.
It was a beautiful spot, rich blue waters and green headlands, but, oh my God, it was freezing. And when it was not freezing, the rain came down in bucketfuls. Driving back from a day trip to Slovenia we got caught in a shower that threatened to put dents in the roof of the car. It was reminiscent of another Ryanair trip to Perpignan, via Girona, when we both got soaked to the skin running ten yards to the shelter of McDonalds.
This rain thing was starting to infiltrate in my consciousness. I booked two nights in December in Frankfurt to see the Christmas market and sure enough it rained on one of the days, though to be fair we weren’t expecting hot and sunny in Germany at that time of year.
This year, I was determined to break our string of bad luck. Rodez, a small city near Castres in the midi-Pyrenees promised us April sunshine but yet again failed to deliver. We marvelled at the way the water just kept on coming down hour after hour with no let up in its intensity.
Surely three nights in Biarritz in mid-June would break our duck? Close to the border with Spain and with a reputation for long sandy beaches and sun worshipping, where could we go wrong? Sadly, the duck, far from being broken, positively revelled in the conditions. When the first drops started to fall at 1pm on our first day, I just shrugged helplessly. Subsequent persistent downpours on the second and third days were only exacerbated by the blue cloudless sky on the morning of departure. And, just to rub rainwater into the wounds, the plane home decided to let us off about 400m from the terminal building back at Dublin and we got drenched in the length of time it took us to gain refuge.
The other day I got a call from Met Eireann, wanting to know if we had plans to go away anywhere in the near future. Satellite pictures can only tell so much, he said, and he had heard our ramblings around Europe were a much more accurate barometer of weather trends. The Timbuktu tourist board left a message on the phone wondering if we might consider holidaying in the sub-Sahara this year as the rains there had failed again. The Ombudsman is currently ruling on privacy laws and whether airlines are obliged to disclose to other passengers if the Gouldings (or, more colloqially “that shower from Dublin”) have booked themselves on a particular flight.
Sympathy among our kith and kin for our plight is somewhat lacklustre, particularly among the kith, who have always been a bit harsh. If we choose to swan around Europe like the Royal Family, they say, we should accept whatever Fate launches in our direction.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that we are providing a valuable social service to the weather weary residents of Dublin 15. As our Ryanair plane heads southwards, the sun will peep out nervously from behind a cloud to make certain we are gone before leaping out with a big grin all over his face and spreading warmth and bonhomie all over Blanchardstown. T-shirted neighbours will smile at each other and remark that “the Gouldings must be away again.”
I think we should be recompensed for this. At the very least, Fingal County Council should sponsor our trips abroad, seeing as how, just as in a Pink Panther cartoon, we’re fated to exist with our own personal black rain cloud above our heads.

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