Cloud Heaven


As an antidote to studying Dante’s Comedy I am enjoying The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. It is very informative about clouds and the atmosphere while being written in a humorous style. His philosophy even echoes Zen in some respects as he says ‘watching clouds legitimises doing nothing.’ (However, it would be a mistake if readers unfamiliar with Zen thought that was all there is to Zen: I’m afraid the path of Zen is one of unfathonable psychological demands and by no means easy!) The author first set up The Cloudspotter’s Appreciation Society and only afterwards wrote the book. He describes how to recognise the different cloud families and peppers the text with amusing or interesting anecdotes inluding one about the pilot who ejected from a plane into a huge thunderstorm cloud and survived to tell the tale.

The picture shows a mackerel sky – or cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatus!

As light reading with lots of nuggets to chew on this could not be bettered; five stars out of five stars (or should that be 5 clouds?).

Millennium Bridge, Newcastle-Gateshead


ISO 100/1/200sec/f5.6

The unique tilting Millennium Bridge was lowered into place in 2001 using a giant floating crane. When tilting it is a bit like an eyelid blinking. Two concrete piers – not visible on my photo – hide massive hydralic rams, pivots and motors. Each opening takes four minutes. 8 electric motors of 440kw drive the tilting – more power than the fastest sports car. It’s 413 feet wide built to an accuracy of a few millimetres!

It was designed by Wilkingson Eyre Architects/Gifford & Partners and built by Gateshead company, Harbour & General. It is for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge is lit up with changing colours during darkness. The quayside now is a very popular cultural/leisure magnet with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on the right of the photo. The Sage concert hall/music centre is behind me as I took the photo. There are bars and restaurants on the Newcastle side (far side in the pic). There are often open air events here too, including athletic events.

I often do a short circular walk starting at the Sage, walk over the Millennium Bridge, turn towards the Tyne Bridge and walk along the Newcastle quayside (market day on Sunday!) over the Swing Bridge and back to the centre of Gateshead. There are many alternative routes and you can walk towards the coast on the north side. There is also the C2C cycle route.



At the viaduct


I went to a poetry workshop yesterday – the theme was nature. One of the exercises was to include a man-made structure, an animal and time.  I wrote this poem and this is one of my paintings I did a few years ago.


At the viaduct

The viaduct floating
in early morning mist.
A single figure with a dog
emerges from the drowned
stones. A staccato of barks
echoes under arches.
A thrush sings his three
time song, sudden wing of
burnt sienna – red kite towing
summer sun.

Moorland Earth

I spend a fair part of my time walking in moorland where I can enjoy such sights (and sounds) as curlew, golden plover, lapwings, buzzards and hobbies.

Moorland earth

My feet squelch as I stride
in slow motion over and into
the dark peat, purple
and green earth.
One woman’s up to her knees,
but she’s got short legs so it’s a bit of a joke.
We pull her arms and she gurgles
like an emptying sink!

All this commotion stirs up
an ancient smell of carboniferous trees
and prehistoric smoke.