Nothing is rarer on the Dingle peninsula than the sun in winter. Yes, it does appear. But randomly. It's here then gone, out then in. There's no way to predict these solar benedictions. When they happen, you have to act fast. That's where the early sun warning system comes in.
I'm out in all weather (see "Over the Rainbow") because I have a dog. Marching grimly down the path below Inch Dunes in a raging gale (the dunes give some minimal protection from the blasting winds), the only people I see out there are other dog walkers. We greet each other merrily as we pass. "Ha ha, those poor sods who don't have dogs, indoor by the fire right now, when they could be out here in the teeth of nature like us," we imply in this greeting.
But I am totally faking it. I'd be in by that fire in a New York minute if Lucy didn't have such big, sad, brown eyes that she fastens on me in mute dog chastisement if we haven't gone out for our walk (she also has a wicked stinkeye when she's in the mood, and it is not pretty). I am so much more of a "woman wrapped in big fur rug by the fire" kind of gal than oh, say, "woman soloing up Everest from the north col." But those doggy looks. Out we go.
Being out in all weather means I'm also out in all kinds of mad weather changes. Today, for instance, Lucy and I hit Inch beach around noon. We were the only people on the beach and mine was the only car in the parking lot. For a few minutes I tried to throw a ball in the blasting wind while the dog employed her steadfast stance: little legs slightly apart and firmly planted; ears and tail air-whipped straight up. Pretty soon I'd had enough. We headed for the dunes.
About five minutes later, the sun came out. Properly. Not a desperate glance from behind hopelessly massive clouds, but full and meaningful eye contact in a wide expanse of sky. Blue sky. It was sunny. We went back to the beach. Emerging from the dunes I looked right, back toward the parking lot. At least two cars were on the beach, with another one pulling in. A boy racer was doing a donut (irresistible, year-round). I could see a few people at the receding line of the water's edge, walking our way.
As Lucy and I got closer to the walkers I saw they were a young, happy couple–one of the iconic sights of Inch beach. The boy racers had parked their car in the dunes and were poking around in debris at the high water mark. Ahead, I could see what looked like a man with his dog. No, two dogs. No, three. A man exercising his greyhounds! Just behind him, quite near Sammy's store, and no I am not making this up, I saw a young family–Mom, Dad, and four or five small children in parkas–playing soccer.
Where had they come from? The sun had only been out for five minutes. In five minutes of December sun, just about every typical human element of a summer's day on Inch had manifested itself. Some sort of molecular-level early sun warning system had gone out, and the people had responded. No sirens, no radar, no Internet, no phone, no radio. Just.. a sensing. Pentagon eat your heart out.
There was only one thing missing. The water sports enthusiasts. Alright. Well. Sun or no, it is December. I got Lucy back to the car and into her crate, then peeled off the layers I'd needed at the start of the walk but not the finish. As I got into the driver's seat and started the car I saw a van pull in to my right and head onto the beach. Three young guys sat in the front seat. "Turbu-lence Extreme Sports" was painted on the side.
Kite-surfers. Yep. The gang's all here.