It’s really not fun being back to reality. It was straight back into work when I got home and next thing I knew, it was Christmas Eve and I was feeling woefully unprepared for Christmas. The rapid shift back to normalcy had put the trip firmly in the distant past. I was just looking forward to a break from work and hoping to get Christmas presents bought in record time. The Ireland we returned to is somewhat in denial that it’s settling into a deep recession for the long haul, but the feeling is lurking there under the surface. The sudden decrease in daylight as we went straight from Summer to the depths of Winter combined with the general doom and gloom regarding the country’s future prospects made it feel like we were literally stepping back into a Dark Age. Before we had much chance to acclimatise to the changes in our environment, the weather went all out to give us an untraditionally white Christmas period.
Ireland has a mild and wet climate on average, and this is exactly what we came back to from our travels. However, whatever the causes of global warming may be, the effects are felt worldwide as the weather becomes more extreme and harsh. For us that meant that Ireland saw out the end of the decade in the grip of a great big freeze. As the year drew to a close the weather became more chilly. A skeleton crew in work suffered through to Christmas Eve as the temperature steadily dropped. With much relief we finally locked up the office and scattered in all directions to get home and try and summon up some proper Christmas cheer at the end of what had been a very long year in work. Along with the inclement weather people have been plagued with all manner of cold and flu. This had yet to strike me down, and in typically inconvenient fashion, I woke on Christmas morning with the tell-tale soreness that signals the onset of the flu. And not even one of the nasty ones I generally get through quickly once a year. To my disgust, the worst effects of this one lasted days, gradually depleting the precious days holidays that I had.
Despite the lack of sleep and the constant headaches, it was a good Christmas. As has become traditional, we loaded up the car and Brodie was deposited with his family while myself and the dog traversed to the other side of the city where my family were impatiently waiting to begin the ceremonial present-giving. Having successfully accomplished that, we all dressed up warmly and made our way to my aunt’s for Christmas dinner followed by the inescapable board games into the early hours of the morning. Time flew past until we everyone was anxious to get some sleep. Our family size stretched the limits of transporting people as the car struggled to deal with carrying one driver and five passengers, my brother being in the boot. I cautiously drove us home and was welcomed by a lively dog, ready and waiting for her late night ramble which is supposed to be in exchange for her settling back to sleep after. Despite the expedition, some persistent barking earned her a spot in my bedroom on the condition that slumber would be involved.
It was a fierce struggle for most of us to devour more than one portion of food at the family Christmas dinner on Stephen’s Day. Despite an admirable effort by all, the effects of fighting against a lack of sleep combined with illness were being felt. By the end of the day I was more than ready to pack up and return home where I could spend the next couple of days in sleep-deprived misery on the couch until the worst effects of the flu had worn off. The headaches gradually eased as we huddled in the house, catching up on all the tv shows we’d missed while we were away. Outside the winds were raging to the extent that the dog lost all desire to go out the front door as the wind pushed her back into the house. Temperatures were dropping sharply and by the time the wind died, we had slipped into the coldest spell of weather on record since 1963. Dark, wintry days ahead…