We are afraid of the weather. Sometimes, as was the case last Monday fortnight, this is quite justified. Occasionally our weather can throw a Shakespearean dose of lethal malevolence at us and we rightly hunker down and cower in fear.
Our weather is for the most part benign, we are not exempt from the odd extreme event but relatively speaking we get off quite lightly. Truth is though, we’re still afraid of rain. And it’s a fear that seems to be escalating, which is unfortunate because this escalation is coinciding with unprecedented levels of interest and engagement with all things garden and outdoors. The problem is obvious; the two are not compatible.
The penny is finally dropping for us on the array of benefits to growing children of exposure to, and immersion in, the great outdoors. It doesn’t have to be Yosemite National Park, the back garden will do. We want the myriad benefits that we are now sure the outdoors can bestow, but we want it with qualifications; we have an issue with sending our kids out in the rain.
It puts me in mind of that old cliché “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. In Finland, (ah jaysus) there is no shortage of harsh weather but an even more abundant supply of appropriate clothing. Their children have the same outside time every day be they in creche, preschool, first or second level. You grab your rain gear and out with you.
A slight trace of drizzle here means adoption of the dreaded “wet day routine”, whereby the kids are corralled indoors from 9.00 till hometime at 3.00. Ah, the good old wet day routine, rooted primarily I suspect in a deep-seated fear of a bit of muck making its way into the hallway or classroom floor but sold as, our old friend, Health and Safety or, better again, something indefinable involving insurance.
There is an exhilaration to defying the rain gods. Last Saturday in the teeth of the prolonged deluge that was Storm Brian, myself and my main man Paddy worked the entire day completing the timberwork on a pavilion we are building in a garden in North Dublin. My workload at the moment is such that I just could not contemplate losing a day to bad weather, so it was a case of having to throw on the wet gear and get stuck in. Coming home to a triumphant piping hot shower after a day out in the rain getting stuff done is a joyous thing.
Lamentably we are not going to adopt the Finnish or ‘no choice’ landscaper model overnight, so what do we do?
I have a very good vantage point from which to assess general trends in the Irish garden. Over the past few years I have noticed a burgeoning penchant for a triumvirate of new elements; the awning, the fire pit and artificial grass. They are all the rage and they have one thing in common, the intention in incorporating them is to circumvent the weather. And that’s grand. It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge that our levels of average rainfall preclude a large cohort from uninhibited immersion in the garden. Hey, outside is outside even if there is a class of a roof above your head.
The mechanical awning is an expensive item and so over the past few years I have seen it morph into assorted incarnations and variations on the theme; polycarbonate covered pergolas, lean-tos, three sided pavilions and so forth. We recently built a polycarb roofed three-sided pavilion with integrated fire pit to facilitate year-round use for a customer. I have spoken here before of my new-found advocacy of artificial grass as a means of getting kids playing outside all year round and if you don’t love sitting around an outdoor fire on a dry sub-zero winter’s night, well then you probably have no soul.
We’re not Finnish. We’re doing the outdoors, but we’re doing it our way. And that’s OK.