Monday 27 July 2015

A Soft Day

Well, there was a nice surprise. Here in Ireland we all woke up on a Monday a couple of weeks back to find we all now had shiny new post-codes. We'd known it was on the cards, of course, but I assumed it was way off. Not so. Liz turned on the phone that morning and fired up Twitter to find notification - it was all switched on, websites running, messages all over social media and a lot of our friends logging in to find out theirs and what it was all about.

The best strawberries I have ever grown.
It is an impressive and cunning system and seems a bit ahead of the UK system we had all been used to 'over there'. Most importantly the 'Eircodes', which are made up of 7 alpha-numerics starting with a letter-number-number for the region (ours is F45) are unique to each building where as in the UK your post code was shared up one side of a street and could include dozens of houses. This makes them compatible with sat-nav systems and internet mapping (eg Google Maps) software if they need to be so that Mr Postie can pull up right outside your house and know he is at the correct place, even in this land of few road signs and fewer house numbers. There is also an 'app' (application) which will run on smart-phones which can generate directions from one address to another.

The turkeys did leave us a few currants. The raspberries and
strawberries are safely out of their thieving ways.
I am told that the last 4 digits, being numbers or letters allow for city housing densities throughout so that in the unlikely event that someone wants to build a 2nd capital of Ireland in Roscommon, they could actually accommodate all the houses and buildings without having to re-shuffle the codes round and about. Anyway, we have sent ours to everyone we could think of who might need it; if you are ever likely to write us a 'snail mail' letter then email, PM or text us for the code.

That fabulous beef rib roast from the last post
Our only experience of it so far is that it may work too well. I foolishly sent off a pre-paid letter containing a survey result and wrote the 'sender' address on the back including the new post code. The next day this envelope arrived back in our letter box instead of having gone to the survey company! I can only assume that either someone is being a dunce, or the OCR software spotted my Eircode on the back of the envelope and, not having one on the real address, let it prioritise mine. The envelope went back into the post office with a white jam-jar sticker over my sender address (and didn't come 'home a second time!).

There is plenty of colour in the garden just now, so we can
assemble a pretty table decoration.
There is an Irish expression which most Brits know even if they think it is just another piece of cod-Oirish along with 'to be sure, to be sure' and 'Be Jay-zus' and that is "A soft day". I reckon most think that this just means 'wet' and is merely the Irish being colourful and flamboyant in their speaking. Not so, again. A soft day is a day in which the rain is of a uniquely Irish type which I never experienced in the UK - continuous heavy drizzle. You get drizzle in the UK and, of course you get light rain and heavy rain, but heavy drizzle is a seeping, silent, insidious thing which sneaks up on you and wets you through without any of the violence of a good downpour. Without even the hiss or roar of proper raindrops.

Cherries splitting badly from the wet July while still unripe.
It seems to fall all day, evenly from a uniform grey sky, as if an uninterupted, wall to wall layer of cloud was just at tipping point. There are no threatening black patches, no funny lighting effects, no patches of blue and no fluffy, cauliflower-like billowings on a true soft day. The grey can be dark or even quite bright and thin, as if the sun is about to break through and the drizzle can ease (for minutes) and return (for hours) just to tease you but you will be tempted to go out in not your most waterproof coat (ahhh, it doesn't look THAT bad!) and you will suddenly realise that your hair is sopping wet and the wet has got down your neck and is all across your shoulders without you having felt any rain drops hitting your skin or scalp.

Greek thyme.
Why am I telling you this? It rains in Ireland, so what? Only that we had an absolute classic 'soft' day yesterday and even the Irish were commenting on it. It will have been a fairly wet July over all by the time the month ends - I have cherries splitting on the trees as a result of it. Ah well, we'll no doubt survive. Oh and I did once hear an Irishman actually say 'to be sure, to be sure, to be sure' - he was our Estate Agent, John (Sean) Callaghan and we were making small talk in the jungle that used to be the front lawn. Liz spotted me about to react and gave me a swift kick in the shins.

Greek wild mountain thyme
So if we've wanted sun this month, we've had to dream it up and mentally import it from sunnier climes. When Liz was over in Poros (Greece) last month, she was lucky enough to come home via a friend's place in Athens  and was driven about by the friend. They headed for the mountains outside Athens where there was a smallholding owned by another friend and Liz was presented with a small bundle of the local wild thyme plus instructions to dry it in a paper bag and then seperate the leaves from stems. She could then use the leaves as herbs for eating, or to scent a room in a pot-pourri or whatever. That thyme came up to the 'threshing' stage recently; basically you rub the leafy ends between your hands and all the leaves fall away. You pick out the few twiggy bits which try to get threshed out too and, lo!, a beautiful scented handful. An interesting smell, says Liz, like a mix of thyme and mint... quite pine-y. Very evocative of Greek sunshine too.

Like a couple of Greek fishermen mending their nets?
Then, like a couple of old Greek fishermen mending our nets in one of the rainless periods we had the job of sorting through the yards of fruit cage netting I had taken off the big keet run (now vacant for the moment). This is under the black spruce trees, so in 2 years the fruit cage mesh had accumulated quite a few dead twigs and 'pine' cones and we wanted to disentangle all these and clean up the netting before we rolled it up to pack it away for some future use (turkeys and fruit comes to mind!). We sat down with the net spread out in front of us and gradually walked through it with our fingers, teasing out the twigs and letting it fall between us clean. We were just amused by the look of the job - more Greek memories for Liz as antidote to the 'soft' weather here.

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