THE May bush is way behind schedule this year; El Nino is in the headlines again and now it looks as if we’re also in for a stormy week on the hustings. Emotions are running high, and on top of all the referendum pandemonium, the alarming news from the Pacific has triggered my weather phobia again.
More about El Nino anon, but first let me say that the most irritating aspect of the Referendum campaign now drawing to a close was the array of minor celebrities paraded by both sides in an effort to influence the way we vote this Friday.
Gods make their own importance, said Kavanagh, but why would any of us be swayed by the views of a celebrity, unless we really were a nation of sheep? Sometimes, admittedly, we do give the impression that this is exactly what we are.
Personally, I couldn’t give a toss how any footballer, TV personality, pop singer, rugby player or politician is going cast his or her vote, and it certainly won’t make any difference to how I will vote. My heroes are all anti-heroes, but even they wouldn’t have any influence on me.
But the tactic of celebrity endorsement and the presumption that we can be so easily influenced by the opinions and actions of the great and the good is, quite frankly, offensive, and an insult to our intelligence. Some of these idols have feet of clay, for heaven’s sake, but even if they didn’t, we don’t have to blindly follow their lead simply because they’ve made a name for themselves in some field or other. Really, there’s no need to call in the stars unless there’s a product to be sold.
What we wanted in this campaign was not celebrity endorsement surely, but a decent and comprehensive debate on the issues at stake – even the more selfish issues like what happens to a mother’s entitlement to the children’s allowance if the amendment is passed. We didn’t get a comprehensive debate, so now, with all due respects to the popular gods, I’m going to have to kneel down and pray for guidance before exercising the franchise.
Back to El Nino now! This meteorological phenomenon, said to have been responsible for the blizzards of 1997 – which, funny enough, I can’t even recall - is showing signs of starting up again in the south Pacific where the waters are ominously heating up.
The family had been trying to keep the news from me for weeks. I was already very uneasy about the fact that the ash was breaking before the oak this spring and they knew that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the summer if I got even an inkling of another big freeze in the offing in the winter. They also knew that I’d be stocking up on tinned food, home heating oil and peat briquettes, and fretting for months about the prospect of having to contend again with frozen pipes and icy roads, not to talk of the erratic spring well. In short, I’d be insufferable.
The Pacific warming, noticed recently by the scientists, is apparently a prelude to global weather extremes which usually manifest here around Christmas day in heavy snowfalls and plummeting temperatures. I don’t know how I got wind of it, but I did, and promptly fell into the usual fit of weather woe, which sooner or later, I’m going to have to tackle before it destroys me.
It’s no use saying that the scientists don’t always get it right. They admit that they don’t even know what causes El Nino or even how it will finally play out anywhere in the world. For all we know Christmas day could be a scorcher yet. Unfortunately, for me, that’s not how the weather phobia works.
Anyhow, I have my own El Nino on the doorstep, even as I write. Every year, by this time, the countryside is white with hedgerows of hawthorn blossoms. People used to put sprays of hawthorn outside the house on May eve to ward off the effects of pishogues. Under no circumstances should those bushes be brought inside, as I learned to my dismay when once, as a child, I enthusiastically picked a bunch of white hawthorn and brought it into the kitchen to my mother who was horrified at my rashness. This year there wasn’t a single whitethorn anywhere, so presumably the pishogue makers had a field day.
This year instead, we’ve experienced a phenomenal display of yellow gorse, blooming in profusion throughout this wet and windy May and spreading like wildfire across the countryside.
There hasn’t been anything like it, I’m told, since the summer of 1946 – the year which preceded the biggest freeze in living memory – and already I’m shivering in anticipation.