Saturday, 29 February 2020

Seasonal Affective Disorders

Since our return from Lanzarote, the weather here has been dreadful: gales, rain, sleet, snow and floods. The bad weather has been relentless, day upon awful day.  After two weeks of unbroken warmth and sunshine, the re-entry into the winter of Northern Ireland was always going to be difficult. But this year it has felt much worse than usual, the weather having thrown down a challenge that even the Stoics would have found troubling.

A friend of mine told me that he and his family had only been on a winter holiday to the Canary Islands once. And that had been over twenty years ago. So why had they not gone on such a holiday since, I asked? Because after a week of lovely sunshine, the return to the winter of Northern Ireland had been so terrible that it had taken them several months to get over it. They decided not to put themselves through that ordeal again.

I knew exactly what he meant. They had gained a few days of summer but this delicious experience had then been painfully curtailed by the relentless wet and cold of winter. Emotionally, the continuing darkness and depression of winter was easier to bear without your hopes being raised and then dashed by a fleeting glimpse of summer.

This would seem to explain why a number of people we met at the hotel in Lanzarote had extended their time there, year on year. One couple from Newcastle told us that last year they had come for one month and this year they had doubled it. Another woman from Leeds told us that she came each year on the first of January and didn’t go back home until the first of May.

A Canadian I met some years ago said something similar. He was a successful businessman and had bought a flat (condominium) in Florida for winter holidays to escape the deep cold of Canada. Over time their winter holidays in Florida got longer and longer until they were only going back to Canada for the summer. Eventually, the summers in Canada got to feel cool and they sold their house there and moved to Florida.

When we returned home from Lanzarote we put the central heating on continuously for the first few days. Outside it was blowing a gale and snowing. I complained to everyone I met about the weather. Most shrugged with resignation. What do you expect, one said? It’s winter.

It took me quite a few days to be able to try a bike ride. I wrapped up in four layers of clothing and pedalled hard to get the blood flowing to hands and feet. Although the sun was shining when I set off, squally showers came in on the strong wind and during the ride I had rain, sleet and snow. Luckily I found shelter in barns to escape several of the showers but the last one caught me about five miles from home. I decided to press on through it. The temperature went down to 1 degree C and I was drenched and shivering by the time I got in. After a warm shower and hot tea with dunked ginger nuts, I perked up.

The next morning I sat down at the computer and began to search travel sites. Before the day was out I had booked two weeks in Mallorca for a cycling holiday.

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