Ben Lowry: Ireland’s sunny northeast

Barnett's Demesne, Belfast in sunshine on Tuesday. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Barnett's Demesne, Belfast in sunshine on Tuesday. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Northern Ireland gets lots of sunshine

You must think I am joking.

And in a way I am. The grey skies are a thing I dislike about the Province.

But a curious thing is that as I get older I notice the sun more than I did – and sunny spells seem to keep coming. It is because our sense of time keeps speeding up as we age. This week, for example, there was day after day of glorious sunshine. It seemed only days ago we had the same – but in fact was probably December.

If I was to examine the statistics I would probably find there hasn’t been much sun.

The greater Belfast area gets about 1,300 hours of sun a year, an average of 3.5 hours a day. For every day with no sunshine at all (we are all familiar with such days) there has to be another day with seven hours of sun to make up for it.

If there is a week when the sun barely appears, there will on average be another week that has 50 hours of sun.

What has this got to do with the sense of hastening time? Well, as I age I am better at shutting depressing days out of my mind.

A spell of grim weather will pass in what seems like no time but might in fact be a fortnight. Then the sun is back, and as I get older I can better savour those times.

Of course the ideal amount of sunshine is more than we get in Northern Ireland. I have a theory that the right amount is 2,500 to 3,000 hours a year, as in New England or parts of France. Not so much that it gets boring (the sunniest places on earth get 4,000+ hours).

Enough that it keeps returning, but also enough of its absence that you appreciate it when it does return.

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