We’ve just come out of the cold snap, but I’ve heard reports on the radio that we could be heading right into another one this week. Some would say the weather we’ve just had is the the last thing we needed after all the crap that’s happened to our economy over the last year, and the crap that’s still to come.
But I’m of the view that it was the politically incorrect slap in the face for the panicking passenger on a sinking ship. And it came along just when we needed it most. Last year showed just how hopelessly unprepared we were for this kind of weather, so we did a (slightly) better job this time round. We’ve just been hit with the most snow I’ve possibly seen in my lifetime, and the lowest temperatures on record, and I’ve been intent on getting the best out of it.
Having finally got the house in order – sort of – and had a couple more events cancelled, I had got back to doing some writing. And I’m really behind on the various projects I’ve got on at the moment. I can’t complain about the time spent on the Armouron books – there’ll be two more out next year, and another two from Richard Dungworth – it was a fun job and a valuable experience. But it knocked my other books back a bit (more about those later) and the house and the new baby knocked them right back. And I can hardly complain about those either, can I? All in all, life’s been good – unproductive on the work front, but good.
Then the weather closed the country down, and we had three cabin-feverish kids bouncing around the house for two weeks, complete with stomach bugs, no television, no door to my studio and a choice of giant heating bills or chilly rooms just when Maedhbh and I are more strapped for cash than we’ve been since we got married. Not very conducive to getting much writing done. But the cold snap did mean the countryside looked absolutely beautiful, complete with frosted trees whiter than I’ve ever seen in Ireland, and thick blankets of snow on the ground. The roads in our area were hopelessly icy, but you could get around if you took your time, and didn’t come across too many eejits. You were better off staying put if you could, meaning a bit of chill-out time (pardon the pun) and whole days spent with the kids – not that relaxing, but a proper pleasure nonetheless. By going with it, adopting a slower pace, things worked out okay.
Petrol-head and broadcaster Anton Savage made the point – a little too glibly – on Today FM that it was ‘just snow’. Tell that to the people who couldn’t get out to get food, or couldn’t afford the fuel to heat their homes. Perhaps they’ll get ‘just hypothermia’. But in a way he was right to make fun of all the people who were turning it into a drama. We’re not prepared for this type of weather: we don’t put snow tyres on our cars when winter approaches. We don’t clear the stuff from our paths, we expect the council to do it for us (in other countries, the law holds you responsible for the stretch of path in front of your home). We don’t have stores of food put away, or even have proper clothes or shoes for this kind of winter. We don’t have snow-ploughs or sleds, skis or snow-shoes. But we can still be sensible about it.
In a world where the role of men is becoming muddier and unclear, this is a good time to prove we can still do the stuff our dads and grandads did when this kind of thing descended on them. We can make sure the cars keep running, and dig them out of the snow. We can clear blocked paths and blocked drains and keep the fires lit and fix stuff that’s broken, rather than waiting for a repairman who might not be able to come out, or doing yet another trip to the shops to buy more new stuff. We can help our neighbours out. We can look after our families, like we’re supposed to.
I’m grateful for this weather, for reminding us all what’s important. Because there’s been an awful lot of crap thrown at us over the last couple of years, and amid all the panic induced by the financial world, it’s been easy to just freeze up. It’s too easy to forget about getting on with living in the real world.
I’ve avoided paying too much attention to the economic misery on the radio and television. I’ve been too busy, and I’ve decided that the parts of it that affect me I’m just going to have to deal with anyway. There’s too much to get on with as it is, without spending my days cursing complacent, corrupt and incompetent politicians or greedy idiot bankers, or all that other shite. The weather has provided the media with a flurry of meteorological metaphors for our economic woes, but it’s reminded me that it’s the practical needs that I should be focusing on.
This country is down, but far from being out, but even that’s not my first concern. Time to get stuck back into my work, and keep doing what I’ve always done to get this far. I don’t know how to deal with a recession, it’s too big a concept. But continuing to turn out books – to make a living and look after my family? That’s something I can manage. And as for the weather? Well, after all, snow is just snow.