Friday, January 4, 2008

The Icing on The Cake

Welcome back!

Last night we had our first sprinkling of snow, unfortunately this will probably also be the last snow of the year.

The island of Ireland, being an island is lucky enough to have a temperate climate and is not subject to the extremes of temperature experienced in continental Europe. Last night the weatherman predicted temperatures as low as – 6°C, which is pretty low for this part of the world.

The funny thing is that before any of this took place, my Mum; BJK had already announced that it would snow overnight. Only later did the weatherman confirm her prediction; confirmed at this stage by reports of road closures on the east coast. How did BJK know that it would snow?

The old people; as we fondly refer to the village elders who are now long departed from this world, used to read the signs and symptoms produced by nature in response to incoming weather conditions. A few of these have been passed into folklore; preserved for posterity, one of the most famous examples of this is:

“Red sky at night; Shepherds delight,

Red sky in the morning; Shepherds warning!”

A farmer, of previous times could predict the time quite accurately by observing the sky and the position of the sun. In those days, before incandescent electrically powered light became readily available people’s lives were dictated by the seasons and the amount of daylight available to them at any given time of the year.

“Early to bed,

And Early to rise,

Makes a Man,

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise”

My very own DG, being a modern farmer is a sometime example of the above adage. Generally speaking though he prefers to ignore the sound advice contained within; rising several hours after the sun and often hitting the sheets within hours of first cockcrow! Indeed, he was most offended when, ill advisedly on our first official date; I announced that he couldn’t possibly be a proper farmer as he should have had half a days work completed by the time he chose to arise!

Things are different these days. Thanks to the Electricity Supply Board Ireland was fully electrified by the end of the mid-nineteen-seventies! Within a very short time modern agricultural equipment was imported, allowing farm workers to work late into the night at harvest time.

No longer is it necessary to rise with the sun on a cold winters day or indeed on any other day. Modernisation of society has allowed us to ignore the call of nature. Today we rely solely on the long-range weather report when planning our crops, or worse still we allow the EEC to dictate what we may or may not plant or farm. We accept this without question, assuming that the grants will continue to come, by way of compensation for our enforced abandonment of centuries old traditions, which had previously been passed from generation to generation.

In the old days the farmer would lay his hedges and tend to them regularly. This was an essential skill, possessed by all farmers, due to the necessity of stock proofing their lands to prevent escape of their precious beasts. Today it is quite normal to encounter abandoned hedgerows, which are full of holes, interspersed with fully-grown deciduous trees being anything other than stock-proof.

In my own locality it is not unusual to witness young cattle hopping over the beautifully flailed, manicured ditches into the path of oncoming traffic. Thankfully the laneway is quiet and those travelling on it are aware of the dangers. Unfortunately, the modern practice of flailing the hedges to stunt their growth requires legislation to ensure the safety of the avian population during the breeding season. In the days of yore, country folk instinctively knew when it was safe to work the hedgerows and so the birds and their families remained safe.

Going back to my original question, just how did BJK know that snow was on its way? Could she feel it in her bones or her waters? Could she feel the change in barometric pressure? Or was it simply that she was able to read the thin, watery, grey sky? She; BJK isn’t old. At the grand age of 63 years she carries deep within her being the knowledge of traditions and histories long past; some of which I am lucky enough to have been taught. Unfortunately she has probably forgotten more than she originally knew; like us all.

For this New Year, 2008, I intend to probe deeply into the recesses of BJK’s memory and extract vital information, which will answer my grandchildren’s questions about themselves. Already I have been lucky enough to learn some of her memories, which I carry close to my heart. My job for 2008 will be to record our family’s history until no more can be remembered in an effort to preserve our heritage; leaving a legacy for future generations to enjoy and marvel over.

As I have been writing this post a remarkable change has occurred. Snow has changed to rain, dissolving everything white in its path. Thin watery grey skies have darkened in density. Peeping out from beneath the clouds is a thin wintry sun.

The view from BJK’s window is entirely changed; the russet of beech leaves glows quietly above the golden green leylandii, against a gunmetal blue skyline. The deep brown of fir cones looming high above this scene, contrast against the deep, silvery needles of the Douglas fir, which in turn is intersected by the youthful plumy redness of last years maple.

This is a sign of hope for the future, the coming year and hopefully for generations to come.

(It's a shame that I can't share the beauty of this with you, I am still looking for my famous Canon digital camera; lost somewhere, uncared for since the excitement of Christmas! No doubt it will reappear; just when it's really needed!)

Meanwhile, take care on those icy roads out there and cherish the times spent with your family.

All the very best for now,

Polly Px


Jean said...

I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work. My husband (who wouldn't yet consider himself an elder!) has a nack for weather. A sixth sense it seems! It comes in very handy.

Polly Peirce said...

Thanks for your lovely comment Jean, it's always so nice to get feedback.

It is funny how some people just seem to know what's happening out there in weather-land, isn't it?

For years BJK used to refer to our neighbour Mrs GCP as 'The Weather-Witch' cos she was always bang on! Way back then, none of us were anything like 'old'!