Thursday, 3 May 2007

The King of Clouds, afro style

Photographed over Laura, South Australia © Tina Moore
Actually what we have here is a fine cumulonimbus capillatus which was the April Cloud of the Month on the splendid website of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Here you can look at their 2,562 lovely photos for nothing, though I have paid the very modest fee and joined the society.

The site is the labour of love of Gavin Pretor-Pinney. I have just finished reading his magisterial book The Cloudspotters Guide, a witty and erudite compilation which looks at clouds from every point of view—technical, aesthetic, literary, historical and in art and poetry. I read it from cover to cover and found it hugely enjoyable.

It bothers me not at all that I have now completely forgotten the details of cloud nomenclature so clearly set out in the book, and still could not recognise a high-class cirrostratus if one appeared over my bed. I now look at the things in a new light: clouds are beautiful and fascinating.

And the best thing of all is that you can enjoy them for nothing, while recumbent, and without going anywhere or exerting yourself in any way. Aristophanes spoke a mouthful when he said clouds are the ‘patron goddesses of idle fellows’.

I share Pretor-Pinney’s view that blue skies are boring, and that clouds win every time; a long time ago I spent some time in Egypt and remember the joy of seeing them again after living for a whole year in a place where there weren’t any.

In the last few days we have had really beautiful weather and like everyone else I have loved it. But if the sky was always clear we would soon get very tired of it; I would, anyway. Some find continuous sunshine gives them infinite pleasure, and aspire to live in a climate where it seldom rains: these are the same people who talk of The Open-Air Life as if it were the most desirable way to live. If I had fancied this, I would have become a game warden or a postman. After all, civilisation began when Man went indoors.

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