The Dusty Sky

October 16, 2017 by Ray Morgan

I've always been compelled by mad weather. I remember going to watch 101 Dalmations at Southend Odeon one Christmas as a kid, and when we came out, it had snowed massively while we were inside. It had gone from a grey and unmemorable day to thick, white, drifting snow in a couple of hours. We drove home at a snail's pace, skidding on ice, me looking at it out of the window in wonder. I remember it being so hot on a holiday in Greece that the dry hills surrounding our apartment literally burst into flames - and we stood in the middle of the night and watched other hills on a peninsular opposite do the same. The next day, ash fluttered down on us like snow. Last month, I stood on the deck of a beach hut during a gale, transfixed by the grey, cold sea smashing itself against the frail wooden legs of the hut. I took endless films of it, obsessively documenting the poor weather, consumed by the smells and sounds.

Yesterday, around 2pm, the light started to get a little weird didn't it? Glowing, rosy almost: shafts of light were baby pink and gold against the white walls of my office. My colleague looked out of the window and said "Everything looks sepia". I became magnetically drawn to a big, perfect neon-pink sun in the sky, trying not to look directly at it - agog at the strange, eerie light it cast.

I looked on Twitter: everyone was talking about it. Hashtag Sahara Dust. Every time I looked out of the window, it had reached new levels of weird. "It looks like it's going to start raining custard any minute," another colleague said. My colleagues are observant and poetic, you're thinking.

Two other weird things happened: fighter jets went over. Searing, blistering, almost-too-loud noise, like they had taken off from my office roof. We all looked at each other like: wtf is going on? Then I saw a flock (or 'murmuration' for the Robert Macfarlanes among you) of starlings, swooping madly outside: dipping low then going to great heights, set strange by the weather.

I find it fascinating how animals are affected by things like this. I once read that because animals' senses are keener than ours, they can feel things like natural disasters coming; birds stopping singing, cicadas stopping shrilling, before earthquakes happen, that sort of thing. I glanced at the birds making a crazy dance against the orange-glow sky and thought about that.

I walked home and took more photos (along with everyone else) of the blazing sky - it got dark far too quickly, buildings and trees in silhouette against a backdrop of pure gold. It was truly something to marvel at. I got home and my timeline was FULL of sky pics. I was glad it wasn't just me.

Next time the weather does something weird, think of me: snapping pictures, tweeting, wondering what's going to happen and feeling all poetic about it. I can't help it. It's the writer in me...


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