The first I heard of this weather event was when I was buying a new wetsuit about ten days before the storm hit. The lady behind the counter explained that however cold I felt in the water now, it was about to get a whole lot worse. She used words like “Siberian snowstorm”, “snowdrift” and “plunging temperatures”. I raised my eyebrows, but I didn’t really think too deeply about it…
Then came the MET Eireann warnings, which have been a bit Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf at times. Next, we had national strategies, curfews and actual breadlines. It was time to take things a little more seriously now. Once the Red Level Warning was issued that was it, we were on lockdown…
Growing up in Kilnamona, Milo was my closest neighbour and friend. We met when I moved to the countryside at the age of eight or nine. He lived less than a mile away. We met almost every day. He walked to my house, I walked to his, or we met at the crossroads nearby. We did what all kids in the countryside did and hopefully still do. We cycled down big hills, we built dens, we played hurling all day and we used fertilizer bags to slide down hills. As childhoods go, it was carefree, idyllic and fun-filled. However, it ended once we were tempted by the bright lights of the town, we started driving or got “too cool” for those games. We grew up and life got more serious. Bills to be paid, work to be done. I can’t remember the last time we just hung out and played. I suppose one day it just didn’t happen anymore.
With the whole country on lockdown, people snowed-in and no work to go to, there was only one thing for it. Call Milo! Over the few days Milo, his wife Clair and myself spent hours trying to fashion sleds out of anything we could lay our hands on (we eventually settled for the top of a bin), we watched whole series of television shows at night on Netflix and ate our body weight in treats.
A typical exchange:
Clair: “Anyone want an apple?”
Milo (eating another chocolate bar): “Sure what’s the point at this stage?”
Eventually, we got creative. Having been inspired by the igloos our friends had built and were sharing on Facebook and Instagram we decided that we had to beat them! Just to annoy them… We thought of building a loaf of bread in response to the national shortage, a giant snowman, a giant pyramid – maybe even just an igloo. But then a tongue-in-cheek snapchat from one of the girls who was enjoying the comforts of a pub set us on our way. “Sculpt this” she said. A Pint of Guinness. So simple. A Giant Pint of Guinness. Three hours of carrying load after load of snow to master sculptor Clair, hours of shaping, of standing back and laughing, of dusting with coal and of etching the iconic harp into the snow…three hours, the longest a pint of Guinness has ever taken. But it was worth it!
Meeting people since we’ve returned to normal everyone agrees that it was great to meet the neighbours and lift ourselves out of the hundrum of everyday life, great to have leadership able to make decisions quickly, great to have response crews willing to do the impossible, great to have lived through the Beast From The East. Most of all, it was great to be a child again. Now, I’ll always remember the last time I hung out and played with my childhood friend. I think that’s pretty special.
Thanks Clair. Thanks Milo. Let’s remember to check the oil. Regularly.
Enda (March 2018)
The West Awaits