Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Always Stormy Weather....

He never fooled me, you know. I knew, ever since I was a child, that it wasn’t the rain that put Gene Kelly dancing all those years ago. I’d put my own money on Gene's tremendous relief at having finally got shot of Donald O’Connor and his Good Mornin’, Good MORRR-NIN'! all night long as the inspiration behind the splashiest soft-shoe shuffle in the history of cinema. It’s not puddles that Gene Kelly is kicking in the famous sequence – it’s the imagined ginger nut of that knock-off Danny Kaye.

Nothing about rain is ever good. Bertie Wooster, on his countless retreats to the country, used to like to remark that bad weather was “very good for the crops,” but we have the evidence of Wooster’s man, Jeeves, that Wooster is “mentally negligible,” and Wooster’s fatuous opinion on weather simply confirms the man as a bally idiot.

Besides, even if rain is good for the crops, what damned use is that to An Spailpín Fánach, who is neither potato nor barley nor wheat? All the weather has done for your unusually damp diarist is put him in fouler form that usual, snarling at little old ladies under their parasols, and stopping little children in the street to tell them how few days are left in the holidays. That gives me a laugh alright.

Even though people insist to me that Galway is a wetter city than Venice itself, I don’t recall getting soaked there all that often. With one exception. It was October or so in the early nineties, slate grey skies, teaming rain, damp, wet and miserable. I was trudging up from Colláiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, to my then residence at Laurel Park, Newcastle. I favoured a big black overcoat at the time, because I thought it made me look like Humphrey Bogart, although in hindsight the reality was the I probably looked more like a Welsh slagheap come to hideous life and making a break for freedom from conscription into a male voice choir, singing Men of Harlech for evermore. The garment was soaked through, and it weighed as heavily on my shoulders as all the woes of the world.

I was shod in Doctor Martens’ boots, the upper of one of which had parted company with the sole, citing irreconcilable differences. The squelch was audible at every footstep.

And to cap it off, I then favoured a soft and luxuriant full face beard, like the late Ciarán Bourke in the original incarnation of The Dubliners, as I was as enthusiastic about appearing old then as I am about appearing young now. The rain sluiced off my caibín, down my plump cheeks, where it agglutinated in the rich undergrowth of my whiskers. Eventually, enough water accumulated to form the biggest and coldest drop of rain in the history of the world, a big and cold drop of rain that would then be impelled by the boundless forces of gravity to fall to the earth. Or, in this case, that precise V where the gentleman’s shirt opens. Every minute or so, inevitably, the biggest and coldest raindrop in the world hit that sweet spot at the crux of the shirtfront with solemn monotony, and from there dribbled down my chest onto the great expense of my belly, taking even more wrong directions than Kris Kristofferson’s Pilgrim on it’s lonely way back home. Nothing you can tell me about rain, hoss.

And despite all that, despite have stood before the mast in that squally city, this sodden summer has your dripping diarist near breaking point. I remember wet summers as a kid, but a shower of hailstones at the Connacht Final ten days ago? That’s just not natural. That fool that wrote the Pina Colada song, who liked getting caught in the rain, was clearly never caught in the rain that often, or else its appeal would quickly have paled with him. An Spailpín Fánach, laid low all week with a dose of the ‘flu, has been caught in the rain now once too often, and he is sick, sick, sick of it. It’s strictly California Dreamin’ with me for the rest of this sorry summer.

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