Chasing the old black dog

Mar 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The return of the light nights seems to have taken forever; the temperature still remains obdurately low.  In former times, when being wealthy one day was still a dream, the idea of switching hemispheres at the equinoxes seemed attractive – France from March to September and Australia from September to March.  No more grey Novembers; no dim, dark days of Christmas; no January blue Mondays; no searching for signs of spring in February.  A recurrent dream was waking in the early hours of a January morning to see bright sunshine all around.

Perhaps the darkness of the days was no more than an excuse; an attempt at rationalisation; a seeking after an explanation of why the world was grey  and far away and why no task was simple.  There could equally be moments in May or June when lightness was as difficult to find; when a heavy fog filled all perspectives.  Sometimes, the clouds would break and beams of sunshine would transform the greyness; but, just as quickly, the chinks would close over and the weighed down feeling would return.

Retrospectively, chunks of time appear under a shadow.  Perhaps it was because little happened to mark the passing of the days, like low lying land beyond a hill, weeks and months would disappear beyond some major event.

The absurd counting of time still persists, it is 17 weeks and two days until the summer holidays, but the shadows are no more than intermittent.

The weekly glass of Croft Original Sherry one Sunday lunchtime after a morning on which most of the congregation stayed at home brought a sense that things, on the whole, were not so bad; that the objective realities of life were very good, the problem lay in perceptions and the perceptions were shaped by chemical balances, or imbalances.

If it was a matter of chemical processes within the brain, then there must be a way of adjusting the processes.  ‘Plenty of exercise’ advised the one half reasonable pastoral response; much wiser advice than plenty of glasses of sherry.

Going for a walk every night; walking the East Pier every Saturday morning; never taking the car into town if the journey can be made by foot and public transport; slowly the low cloud cover has been pushed upwards to make way for something no worse than an overcast day.  Perhaps overcast is the best for which to hope; leopards do not change their spots, even after a second glass.

Moments, like black thunderstorms on August days in France, still strike; a mood of happiness can be replaced a minute later by a deep despondency. Most times, though, it is manageable.  Most times, the only black dogs are the pair of mongrels pulling at their leashes as we amble down Church Road.

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  1. It is surprising how the weather can affect our moods Ian. When all else fails at least the brightness of sunshine seems to prevail here. I hope your clouds lift soon!

  2. I can get by all right being overcast – it matches my personality!

  3. It was a particularly long and dark winter. I too had to battle the dark clouds and struggle to stay positive. Thankfully we have turned the corner and can live in hope of sunshine to warm the old bones.

  4. I remember sitting on Dun Laoghaire pier on 1st November hearing a man saying that it was going to be a long winter – that will be five months ago on Wednesday. Hopefully, we will not have a summer as bad as last year, which was so bad that some wit commented in a letter to a newspaper that all that was needed to push everyone over the edge was George Lee – a very gloomy economics correspondent – being responsible for doing the television weather forecast.

  5. I walked along Church Road this evening. The only mongrels I met wore Nike hoodies, I became very tense as they walked towards me, they became tense also as they walked towards an overweight man with clenched fists. Why has society gone this way, I stereotyped them and them me.

  6. Not sure when Ireland changed – did we use to fear each other?

    Mind you, a confrontation would have been one sided. I once saw a confrontation between Blackrock boys and a group of hoodies:

  7. ‘Plenty of exercise’ was good advice. Roll-on summer when we can actually enjoy being outdoors!

  8. I went to school on Dartmoor. (My asthma was so bad that the county council sent me off to a special school) Dublin is always warm in comparison!

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