The reinvigorating power of February

My mother used to say that you kept something long enough, it would come back into fashion. But of course, I never heeded her, and so all my trendy Gola sports bags and original three-stripe Adidas tee-shirts were discarded, not knowing they would come back into vogue. So too with flared trousers. It must have been the devil himself who designed those in the 1970s and thought it was a good idea, but back they have come again for certain age-groups.

I thought of all that this week with the news that starting today, you can get money back for your old bottles again. In the early 1970s, in the town where I grew up, and where if a dog went through with his tail on, he was a tourist, opportunities for pocket money were rare.

But the 5p or so that we got back for every bottle was a Godsend. Because we’d find the bottles, cash them in; and if the shop-owner was lackadaisical enough to leave them in crates at the back of the shop overnight, he’d get them back again the following day for another 5p.

This new scheme seems very high tech, with scanners and receptables with more computing power than took Man to the Moon. It will be interesting to see how it operates.

This February is an unusual one for us here, because it has five Thursdays, a happening that we only have every quarter century or more. So, in the shortest month of the year, we will have five Advertisers.

There is a great sense of change around February — a shedding of the dead skin of winter and a brazen face towards the rising sun and all that Spring brings with it. I always loved February and its reinvigorating powers. I have a zest for early Spring — something that I have probably taken with me from childhood. As a child in Ballinrobe, I always had a great sense of the potential for hope that comes with the arrival of this month.

We had three wooden lake boats for fishing on Lough Mask, and every winter, they were upturned in our garden and allowed to hibernate against the harsh winds and rain while the fishing season remained shut. And then in late January, the boats would be turned again and the process of getting them ready for a new season would begin.

The old and weathered paint would be stripped off with scrapers and gas torches, gaps in the wood were filled with Isopon and putty. The ribs of the boat would be checked for cracks and if needed, new ribs would be created, heating them until they bent in a rubber pipe, and then bolted in with copper bolts and washers.

When it was all sanded down and washed, it would be time to apply three coats of thick gloss, normally blue, with a different colour picked every year for the top board. The seat knees would be varnished, the floorboards and oars put in place, and the engines, a three or four horsepower Seagull that you’d start with a knotted rope, would be geared up and ready for the lake.

With the lake fishing season almost upon us again dates wise, my thoughts this week went to those activities, but not so much for what they were, but for what they represented.

For us, the boats on the lake would shape the excitement of the Spring, the summer, the autumn. With anglers coming far and wide for my late Dad to gilly them, to guide them to the best places to fish, to avoid the rocks, to advise them on flies such as Green Peters and the Golden Olives, dapping and trolling.

The boats represented too, the opportunity for earnings to put food on our table, to create an engagement with visitors who would fill the house with their strange stories and strange smells come Summer.

It has been a sad time this past while, not least of which in here in the office, where there have been several bereavements and setbacks. We need the power of February to reinvigorate, to prop us up and give us all the strength for the longer days ahead.

Embrace the new light...


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