Nothing Can Put My Shades in The Shade?

It was a wet, though thankfully, relatively snow free winter, and it was also a mostly wet but thankfully, snow free spring. It’s getting warmer and the Sun’s finally on its way. Of course there are lots of things that bind great nations together but our absolute obsession with the weather and our ability to talk about it until the winter snow returns is pretty much unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Naturally they talk about the weather in Wales because nobody likes the feel of damp wool and I’m sure our friends in bonnie Scotland aren’t averse to the odd pitter- patter of weather talk, though you’d have to admit that there aren’t that many attractions about living in a country where almost every sentence contains the word ‘rain’.

But before I moved lock stock and two smoking suitcases to Ireland, I was living in the great northern city of Manchester. Now of course anybody who’s familiar with Manchester will know that it endures a hundred and twenty eight inches of rain per week and only twenty six minutes and forty seconds of actual sunshine, but the Mancunians remain stoic through all this because after all the British stiff upper lip and all that is mainly derived from our tolerance of getting absolutely drenched on a regular basis.

But it got me thinking as to what kinds of conversation the inhabitants of other great nations obsess about. For example, Japanese housewives might well bemoan the shortage of ‘decent sushi in this town’ as they peer at one another through the bonsai trees as they peg their kimonos to the clothes line before adding that if the country doesn’t soon pull out of the stagflation that they have been locked in since the last Emperor shuffled off to the great temple in sky, the rate of Hari Kari will become unsustainable.

The French of course could only obsess about one topic of conversation which would naturally be gastronomy. Though  not necessarily food as the rest of us know it as they ponder just how many more four legged creatures they have yet to smear in garlic and drop into a molten vat of oil. The Russians, I’m pretty certain, lament the loss of the Ukraine and most of Eastern Europe as well as Stalin. Weather of course rarely, if ever, gets a mention because when you spend your entire life living in a refrigerator against a background of white powdery stuff you’re hardly about to mention your uncontainable excitement at the prospect of taking the cabriolet for a spin. Meanwhile our American housewife friends remain absolutely shocked and disgusted at the outrageous prices one has to pay these days for ammunition. But then again the Americans do at least know what sunshine feels like which brings me back to why I started to pen this little piece in the first place and the one word I want to share with you all. ‘Sunglasses’. Yep, those things that we like to pull on as soon as it stops snowing because they make us look cool and, as my daughter is currently fond of saying, ‘Well Rad’

And so back to Manchester where I first noticed the sunglasses phenomenon that I have to say has also caught my eye in good old Ireland. You may not be aware of this but statistically speaking the last two weeks of June and the first week of July are, by and large, the warmest months of the year. Not always, I grant you, but I’m reliably informed that more often than not. However while these three weeks are the warmest they are not usually the sunniest because it’s that time of year when we all start to use the words. ‘close’ ‘clammy’ ‘stifling’ and ‘thundery-stormy’ and so on. It’s warm but not sunny and it feels as if any  moment a rain storm of Old Testament proportions is about to send us all scurrying into the nearest wood or forest to find enough timber to build an ark.

And yet none of this will make any of us remove our sunglasses. We just cannot bring ourselves to take them off. By this stage we’ve all been wearing them for the entire three days of summer and only a welder could prise them off of our noses. One particularly cloudy day at the end June last year, remember it’s one of those three weeks again, I got onto the Luas light railway in Dublin at a place called ‘Saggart.’ By the time it pulled up at another stop called ‘Red Cow,’ I kid you not, (This is an actual station, and not as I had once suspected, a condition contracted by cattle grazing too close to Sellafield), I was the only person on the entire tram not wearing Raybans?  Suddenly I felt like I was on my way to a Lenny Kravitz convention and anybody not also in on the whole ‘sunglasses’ thing might have assumed that it was a special day out for the blind and that the tram coming up behind was full of Golden Retrievers.  Now don’t get me wrong. There are many legitimate reasons for wearing shades on black cloudy days, from the light-sensitive condition that Steppenwolf’s John ‘Born to Be Wild’ Kay had to Roy Orbison’s albino condition. Other reasons might include those sunglasses wearers who could have come from the ophthalmologist, where their eyes were dilated; they could have had recent cataract surgery; or they could be concealing illicit-drug use. Since the eyes are the windows to the soul, it certainly makes sense to shield them on occasion. But come on, Sunglasses when the sky is as black as a gorilla’s armpit? But I will admit to wearing my pink-tinted metal-frame Persols at night because I like seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles!


24th June 2016