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via NASA Earth Observatory

One of the things about living in Ireland is that we rarely get that much snow. In most areas it usually arrives in the depths of winter – January or February maybe – stays for about a day and then disappears again. Apart from one day last year, my kids have never woken up to snow outside their home. It’s curious because Ireland has a very high latitude on this planet. We share the same distance from the equator as Moscow, Edmonton, Gander and other bitterly cold and ice-bound places on the planet. The reason, of course, is the North Atlantic Drift: a current of warm oceanic water originating off the coast of Florida. The warm waters off our coast and prevailing northwesterly winds normally keep temperatures well above zero for most of the year.

Not so this year. A high pressure area over the North Atlantic has served us with frosty Arctic air for the best part of two weeks now. Snow, almost unheard of in November, covered most of the island with the east of the country getting a particularly thorough battering. My mother in Kilkenny is housebound and my sister in Wales was unable to come home for a wedding this weekend because of near blizzard conditions in Waterford.

Much to the disappointment of my children, Cork was spared from the snow. Snow was threatened yesterday morning but instead we got drenched by icy rain. It froze instantly to the roads, briefly turning the whole city into a massive skating rink.

NASA’s Aqua satellite took this wonderful photo of Ireland on Thursday. You can clearly see the snow clouds pasting the east coast of Ireland before venturing out into the Celtic Sea. The mid-West of Ireland, from Clare to Cork, remained relatively unscathed, while seven-foot deep snow was reported in the Wicklow mountains.

A winter to remember, for sure.

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I’m finally back from my world travels, having flown a distance of 18,000 km in the past ten days. My travels took me to Texas and Germany with a short stop in London. It’s been quite an experience. I have learned many things, such as:

1) To be very careful when booking flights with British Airways. If you try to change your booking within 24 hours of travel (even if the reason is legitimate, such as a freakin’ snowstorm), they will do everything in their power to stonewall you. I arrived in at 7.30 am into Heathrow and when I tried to get an earlier flight to Stuttgart than the 18.45 flight I was booked on, I was met with indifferent shrugs, middle-distance stares and a definite feeling that I was the bad guy for even daring to ask. I was happy to travel on standby, but that option was shut down straight away. I’m pretty certain that neither of the two earlier flights to Stuttgart that Saturday left with a full complement of passengers, but how could that possibly be their problem? That would be penetrating the bureaucracy, now, wouldn’t it?

2) Texans (at least the ones I met) are mindbogglingly polite and helpful. You could go nowhere without a “Can I help you?” or an “I beg your pardon” coming from somewhere. I have to put in a special mention to the American Airlines ground staff in Austin, who worked from 4 am to 7 pm on Thursday to ensure that all their passengers were taken care of. Almost every flight to Dallas had been cancelled and stress levels were stratospheric, but nevertheless these people worked wonders while keeping their sense of humour intact.

3) German people speak to each other in lifts, even if they don’t know each other. Now that’s just plain weird. Elevators are designed to make you feel enormously self-conscious and inadequate. This talking thing just isn’t playing by the rules.

4) When flying there is only one true currency: access to an electric power outlet. The more gadgets we carry around, the fewer chances we have to recharge. Methinks books are very safe.

5) I can now sleep on transatlantic flights! Actually, I can sleep on all sorts of flights! All they need to do is turn on the engines and pfffft, I’m out. This can mean only one thing. I’m getting OLD.

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