“I’ve never seen anything like this.” When an Irish person says that, you need to take the rain seriously. When I left the gate lodge, the weather was gorgeous. I even went back into the house to change into sandals, thinking my flats would be too warm. By the time I got into Edenderry, less than 10 minutes later, the rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see the turn, and when I made the turn onto the edge road past Dunnes’ Store I couldn’t make out the curb. As I drove the roundabout and started up the hill to the main street I feared I might hydroplane through the deepening puddles.
The Irish have many phrases for rain and weather: the day is soft, the day is close, the weather is unsettled (most frequently this is the case), the weather is showery, there are outbursts of shower, there will be sunny spells, it will be mainly dry, there will be periods of thundery showers. In heavy rain people say the rain is bucketing down. This rain was far beyond bucketing. It was torrential. It was so heavy that when I arrived at my friends, I phoned them and we decided I should wait in the car for five minutes to see if it let up. When it didn’t I made a run for it across no more than ten feet of sidewalk, covered by an umbrella. Even so, my sandals were sopping and my pants legs were wet nearly to the knee.
As is the custom in Ireland we sat down immediately for dinner. Four hours and many bottles of wine later the six of us were still at the table, wrapped in the warmth of fish soup and the comfort of good friends, protected from the spates of downpour and the occasional streak of lightning.
When we finally left to head home in the now dry evening, the town was eerily quite, the usual ranks of smokers outside the pubs nowhere in evidence. I drove past the chipper, the busiest spot on a weekend night, and although the neon lights spelling out Macari’s were bright there was a lone person inside waiting for his order. On the way home I didn’t encounter a single car, highly unusual even late on a Saturday night. When I was nearly back at Ballindoolin a hedgehog emerged from the woods and shuffled across the road in front of me. Back home, the gate lodge felt welcoming for a change, set against the black, black night.