Spring or something like it, a respite, a surprise break in the windy winter greyness, opens up randomly in February, giving us still, sunny, maybe even warmish days. Unexpected days. Suddenly you're aware of the birds (perhaps because you can actually hear them when the gales die down), and mud, and if there's not a tinge of green yet, there's a feeling of green. You can relax, stretch, walk outside, breathe deeply. And immediately choke on a lungful of acrid smoke. Because the mountain is on fire.
Yes, it's that annual Kerry tradition, lighting the gorse every time the day is fine and the air is still, blanketing townlands (and last week the entire town of Dingle) under hazy smoke for hours, forcing closed windows and doors on the very days you want to fling them open, and threatening buildings and people as the fires inevitably go out of control. Last year a friend had to leave her house with her family as a fire lit by one of her neighbors crept ever closer. This year (and every year) a farmer was killed when the fire he lit went out of his control.
These fires are legal. That is, they are legal until the 1st of March, and if they are under control. It's hard to see how any of them are under control. And here in Kerry, they're lit well after the 1st of March. They're lit anytime, really, if the wind is down and the day is fine.