A Short Field Guide to Dublin’s Precipitation.

I’ve been busy. Seeing people, doing official stuff, going for walks, reading Chinese sci-fi, babysitting, curing a hangover (NOT from babysitting), feeling under the weather – something had to give, and that something was writing. I scribbled a few notes in my poem journal but that’s about it. Still, no harm done, new week, once more unto the breach, keep calm and carry on etc.

We went for a long walk yesterday again. I love walking in Dublin, it’s a great city for strolling about. If you don’t mind the rain. Which I don’t, even though I complain about it as much as the next person.

Dublin rain is complex, it comes in so many distinct forms. The one we encountered yesterday was a mix between a mist and a drizzle. Mostly it just hangs in the air, excess moisture that doesn’t really make you wet, as much as it travels on you, suspended on your hair or on your coat. But occasionally it starts falling, tiny little droplets, barely noticeable, after a while you start feeling it, seeping its way, bit by little bit, into your clothes, into your skin, eventually into the very bones. You’d never use an umbrella in this rain, it would seem excessive, you might put up your hood if you’ve got one though. You never really get properly wet, just damp through and through. When there are many days like that in a row, gray, cloudy, melancholy, the dampness might start seeping into your mind as well. It’s nothing major, you just don’t feel quite comfortable in your own head. There’s an easy solution though, pop into a pub, or a cafe, or a restaurant – nice hot whiskey, or a mug of tea, or a bowl of hot soup – something to warm you to the core, and you can brave the mrizzle (that’s my name for that particular form of rain) again.

Mist on its own, I find rather pleasant, refreshing even. You feel healthy and moist. Moist is a very different feeling from damp, by the way, damp is slightly depressing, moist is just rosy-cheeked and glistening, I can do moist. And that’s enough of saying the word “moist” in my mind, it’s getting weird in there.

There is of course another variety of Irish rain, the one popularly described as “pissing”. It’s not bucketing, it’s not pouring, but you would avoid going out in it if at all possible. You’d definitely open an umbrella once outside. This one (and its heavier brethren) comes in sub-categories of “horizontal rain” and “upside-down rain”, as Dublin is not only rainy but also windy. You can try using an umbrella with these, but in my experience, it’s useless and leads only to many damaged umbrellas in trash bins. Horizontal rain does what it says on the tin, it rains directly in your face. You can delude yourself thinking that you might be walking with the wind, and only get it on your back, but I’d lived in Dublin for many years, and I’d never experienced that. It’s always in your face. The upside-down rain is mysterious. I still don’t really know how it happens, but I swear it sometimes seems to be falling upwards (how can something be falling upwards? it’s rising, not falling). Nothing can protect you from the upside-down rain. Just accept that it clearly must be your time for getting soaked through by gravity-defying water.

There’s also lashing rain. Avoid the Outside at all costs. Bring a change of clothes to the office if you have to walk to work, and maybe a hair dryer…

There are at least 10 different categories and if you live here you will soon know them all. And don’t let Ireland fool you, it tries to do that. Before I moved here, very many years ago, I had visited a good few times, and every time I had nice weather. I kept thinking that my Irish friends were just whinging about the rain, for the sake of it. Sure, it would maybe rain one or two times during my stay, and maybe the summers weren’t all that hot, but mostly it was all clear blue skies and sunshine. Well, I moved in summer 2007, the day I arrived was nice, and then it started raining and didn’t stop for 49 days…

But Dublin’s precipitation doesn’t end at rain, oh no. There’s also sleet, and hail, and very occasionally snow. In my Facebook memories, I’ve recently came across this little nugget of wonder: “Back in Dublin. I’m trying to make up my mind as to what exactly is the thing falling from the sky. It’s not really rain, snow or hail but a sort of mixture of all three… Sleet I guess, but a weird one. Oh Ireland, thou shall never cease to amaze me with the new, wondrous forms of precipitation!”. My partner’s (who is Irish) reaction to this statement was “Oh, you mean rain-snow-hail? Yeah, that happens.”.

You also need to be prepared for every weather all the time. Which, in practice, means that nobody is ever prepared for any weather because who could be bothered with that? You can always safely assume it’ll probably rain at some point, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Weather forecast apps are useless in Ireland. I remember going for a walk in Donegal one time, it was in February, and during the few hours we were out, we had: beautiful and unseasonable sunshine and warmth, rain of several varieties, hail, snow, and then sunshine again.

It doesn’t really snow in Dublin. Each winter you may get a couple of days when it pretends to, but as it’s rarely cold enough for it to stick, you just get fat wet snow petals turning into disgusting sludge immediately upon arrival to the ground. When, very, very rarely, it does get cold enough for the snow to hang around, the whole country becomes paralyzed. Nobody is equipped to dealing with the snow. No winter tiers on the cars, nobody has salt or grit to put on the pavements, there’s an inch of snow on the ground and the schools are closing, nobody can get to the office on time and general apocalypse ensues. It’s kind of cute, if you’ve ever lived somewhere with proper winters.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

But if it wasn’t for the constant rain, how else could the place stay so stunningly green?

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