Oh my, my July! What a month it was. Not only did we have a glorious heatwave, but we also started meeting up again. Both were wonderful and yet a little freaky. The heatwave was like a dream come true. I even went swimming -both in a lake and in the Atlantic. West Cork is just dazzling in the summer sunshine and heat. Still, 30C does feel a little bit odd. I love it, but it’s freaky. It’s a temperature more suited to the Med. So are the throngs of tourists filling streets that have been empty for so long. I’m happy for the business community, but I’ve had to relearn that traffic out to Inchydoney on the weekend is going to be a nightmare.
Similarly, meeting people, having the chats, or going for a pint has been lovely – and a little freaky. I have probably met more people in the last month, both old friends and complete strangers, than in the last 18 months. I’m delighted, but I’m also finding it quite tiring. I have not had to engage in small talk, or navigated the complex patterns of an all-table chat, since back in March 2020. I’ve had to remember how to do it. I find it exhausting. I’m fully vaccinated, and I’ve always loved socialising, but I feel a certain hesitancy to be in a large group. I can only put it down to having been locked down for so long. It’s like I’m in training to brush up on my social skills and stamina.
Adding to the sense of unreality of living in July’s pandemic paradise was the extreme weather we saw all around the world. Unless you were living under a rock (or were too busy enjoying the heatwave) you can’t have missed the spectacular extreme weather that filled our news screens throughout the month. Heat domes. Fires on the Pacific coast blowing smoke all the way to NYC. Water shortages in California and Iran. Floods in Germany and Belgium and China. Then, when the month had only a few days to go, the Med had it’s own heat dome followed by fires. On Thursday we were contemplating going to Turkey and by the weekend we were watching tourists being evacuated from Bodrum.
As I slowly start to re-engage with other humans, I’ve noticed that the pandemic, and climate change have joined the weather as Universal ice-breakers. “How was lockdown for you?” or “Did you see the floods in Belgium?” is now the most common way to start up a conversation. Along with the traditional “How do you like this heat?”
The pandemic and climate change. It seems I could talk of little else in July – except when meeting strangers. I drove up to County Monaghan and stayed for two weeks. I must have met over a dozen people. They all had one thing I common. The minute they heard where I lived, they wanted to talk about West Cork. How beautiful it is. How expensive it is. How much they’d love to holiday/rent/buy in West Cork. And of course, they also wanted to talk about the murder. Thanks to excellent branding, a terrific development of tourist amenities, a podcast, two television series and countless headlines everybody thinks that they know West Cork. It’s freaky.
I love West Cork with a passion. I love the landscape, and the people, the music and the craic. I honestly think it is one of the best places on the planet. But there’s something freaky about strangers being so enthralled with the place I’ve called home for 29 years this August. It felt weird to keep having the same conversation over and over. West Cork! Beautiful! Expensive! TV series! It’s strange trying to explain the difference between the wonderful reality and the hype. At first it made me feel uncomfortable, but it quickly just became tedious.
The pubs are open. We have indoor dining, and small outdoor gigs are starting up, but it’s not exactly the craic agus ceol of the Before Times. Though restrictions have eased, the whole experience is still a bit weird. Like going to a comedy show where no one is laughing. However, we just might be coming out of this. We’re not there yet, but it’s looking better than it has for a while. With a bit of luck, we might even get the weather back. I certainly hope so. I got a taste of what West Cork could be if the weather was like it used to be in the Med and it’s left me longing for more. Despite it being just a little freaky.