Let’s talk about…The cold snap

‘Snow’ big deal – why we should try not to get not bogged down over the frosty weather

Earlier this year in Ireland, we experienced the highest recorded temperature for the country since the 1800’s, with Phoenix Park reaching 33C in July. Now, as we move towards the end of the year, it appears we’re shooting for records on the other side of the spectrum, with the coldest day since 2010 encountered in this country earlier this week, and Met Eireann warning that temperatures could drop to -11C in the coming days as the cold snap continues across most of Ireland.

This recent (much) cooler weather seems to have been hitting different parts of the country differently; heading into Roscommon from Galway on the bus this week, I couldn’t help but notice the rolling trees and fields ‘flying past the window’ getting progressively whiter and frostier the further we headed from the coast. When we reached Roscommon an hour and a half after departing a very-cold-but-not-visibly-frosty Galway city, it was a surprise to arrive and see the town looking comparatively like the picture of a ‘winter wonderland’, with a thin sheen of frost covering every surface, tree, and building.

Of course that’s not to say that Galway has managed to escape the frosty weather either, not by any means. However, where Roscommon seems to have at least got some winter wonderland aesthetics from the current weather, the cold snap’s effects on the coastal city for the past while have been mostly confined to the occasional slippery footpath, the unavoidable biting coldness in the air, and a thick fog that settles over the city some evenings and makes the place look like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Any visible frost that does pop up has, so far at least, not lasted very long.

In any case, whether it’s frost, fog or freezing temperatures in general, one thing the cold weather seems to always deliver on is making people a bit curmudgeonly. Admittedly of course, the cooler season does indeed cause a bit of bother, bringing about a daily inconvenience or two for us all – from all the layering up that’s done before you leave the house only to still feel frozen when you nip to the shop, to having to wake up that wee bit earlier each morning so that you’ve time to defrost the windscreen, etc.

When the weather’s like this, there’s an almost palpable shared disdain for the bitter cold that you pick up on from people as you pass them on the street, both parties wrapped up to the nines with hands in coat pockets and chins buried under coat collars, eyes tracked on the ground and making quick purposeful steps across the icy footpaths so you can get into somewhere warm as quickly as possible. You can see it clear as day up in Galway in the shawled-up students trudging over to campus to complete the last of their winter exams, no doubt eager to get them over with once and for all so they can celebrate before heading home for the holidays.

Indeed, for many of us, the imminence of the approaching holidays is perhaps the biggest silver lining to look forward to amid the recent cold weather. Not just as a distraction to get excited for either – after all, who doesn’t dream of a “white Christmas”?

The sheet of frost covering seemingly every nook and cranny at the moment does at least pair well with the decorations and lights strung about the place, and it’s somewhat fitting that our first restriction-free festive season since Covid is aligning with a traditional idea of what the holidays look like. With the festive season so near, soon the little inconveniences of going about our daily responsibilities in freezing temperatures will let up, and we’ll get to spend a few days staying in and gorging on leftovers and Cadbury Roses by the fire until the holiday break ends and we all face back into reality.

Because as much as a nuisance as the cooler temperatures can be for us all, we are fortunate in that for most of us, it is only that – a nuisance. The festive season is one heavily associated with recognising what you have – and being grateful for it – and in light of the freezing temperatures being experienced all over the country, one can’t help but think about the impact that’s having on the homeless and indeed on those struggling to heat their homes this winter. The cold weather and all its impacts, for many of us, largely stops at the front door. Others are not as fortunate.

While I imagine no one among us has managed to escape being inconvenienced or irritated by the recent colder weather, I think it’s worth taking the time to look on the bright side, appreciate what we do have, and if possible, donate or do our bit to support those who’re less well off this holiday season. We Irish love to complain about the weather – and will no doubt continue to as this cold snap plays out – but there’s no merit to getting too bogged down by it either, not when there’s so much else to be grateful for.

Stay safe, and remember to wrap up when out and about!