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“Connecting the Present With The Past”™
Note: The following was contributed by an Irish relative in County Sligo, Ireland. He will be a guest contributor from time to time. It is a personal account of the current “big freeze” in Ireland, told by the Irish relative in County Sligo. Please take a look and let us know your thoughts. Read it through to the end. You won’t be disappointed:
“The recent cold weather is the worst since records began. The lowest temperature ever recorded of -22 C occurred one night and we had forecast minimum temperatures of -17 C to -20 C for almost a fortnight. It was discord testing to see the forecast -18 C sitting right over my village one evening. Our clothes, houses and cars are not designed to cope with sustained low temperatures like that but we managed to cope reasonably well and there was a wonderful community spirit of strangers assisting one another.
We only got 6 inches of snow, three inches on successive days. I have a rather long drive up to my house with two steep stretches so as soon as the snow fell I started shovelling a track to get the car out. On the first day I broke my 30 year old shovel which proved a blessing in disguise as I bought a new navvy shovel (€19.50) with a sharp point which was most effective in dealing with ice. The first thing I learned is that you cannot work without gloves in temperature of -6 C for any length of time. I have not owned a pair of gloves since we returned from England thirty years ago but do have a pair of work gloves for dealing with briars and roses which saved the day. My local road soon became a solid two inches of ice which remained passable at 20 kph for three miles to the main road. The local councils did well in that they kept the main roads open until they started to run out of salt the Sunday before Christmas. Salt is procured, usually from Liverpool, by the National Roads Authority but for the second time in 2010 the idiots managed to leave us short of salt. On the Wednesday a shipload of salt arrived in Dublin from Turkey and on the Thursday another from Algeria arrived in Cork .
The anti-freeze in our cars only protect them down to -10 C so many people had difficulty starting their cars. I had none myself though each morning many of the dashboard warning lights came on though they went out when the engine warmed up properly after about half an hour of driving.
Many people had difficulty with their water supply and this became even more serious after the thaw as the councils struggled with burst water mains. My own house consist of two houses built in 1939 which I joined together in 1986 with the result that the structure of the plumbing is based on the original 1939 design. As a consequence we had hot and cold water in the bathroom and cold water in the kitchen so that the washing machine, dish washer and showers were out of action. A friend of mine, with his blow torch, got the water back for us the Wednesday before Christmas and we managed to get the clothes washed and I got my beard washed in the shower. (Washing a long beard, other than in a shower, is very messy.)
On the Thursday morning before Christmas both the heating and the satellite television had failed and how they were dealt with are a case study of the difference between a local and a multi national supplier. I rang our local oil supplier to get the number of a technician and he said he would have it fixed by dinnertime. At 12 o’clock he arrived with an assistant. They removed the filter on the oil tank which could not cope with the very low temperature and said they would put it back the next time they made a delivery. It took five phone calls to Sky to make any progress with the satellite television. Their call centre is in Scotland and being somewhat hard of hearing I found the Scottish accent difficult to cope with. The first four calls were terminated by them when they had told me to hang on. Eventually, they agreed that a technician would call on the 29th December.
Not having television meant we watched some old favourite films. My own all time favourite is The Seven Samurai which I watched with my 13 year old grandson. He thought the battle sequence, which goes on for over an hour, was better than anything in Avatar. Another film I watch over and over again is The Quiet Man which is full of ironic and comedy gems. My own favourite is where the train crew go off to watch the hurling match because “The Mayo hurling team has not been beaten for three years”. Mayo are a strong football county but very weak in hurling and to say they have not won a hurling match in three years would be more accurate. Another favourite moment in the film is where Maureen O’Hara says to the parish priest, Ward Bond , something like “ Níor chodail mé i leaba mo fhear go foil”. ( I did not sleep in my man’s bed yet). Just at that moment Ward Bond hooks a salmon and, up to his waist in water as he tries to hold on to the salmon, and as he tries to tell her to do her duty at the same time is one of its lovely comedy moments. Another film we enjoyed was “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes . It is a black, black Irish comedy about two Irish hit-men who are hiding out in Bruges and one is supposed to shoot the other. The writer and director is Martin Mc Donagh a young Irish playwright from London who has already won awards for his plays on Broadway. I expect, over the years, that he will make some memorable films.
The lowest temperature recorded in my car was -15 C after 9 pm Mass on Christmas Eve. All my good boots and shoes have smooth soles so to cope with the icy conditions I used a steel capped pair of work boots I have. I wore these to church for the Mass, changed into shoes in the porch and changed back again after Mass. It reminded me of when I ran barefoot as a boy over the bogs of Mayo from about 1st May to 1st November every year. I used to carry my socks and shoes to Mass, changed into shoes at the gate before Mass and went barefoot again as soon as Mass was over. A warming memory in the apparently unremitting cold we were enduring.”
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