Saturday, 8 December 2007


My friend Marilyn suggested I read The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. I resisted for a while because since she read it earlier this year she's become besotted by clouds and has neglected her older passions for birds, butterflies, orchids, rocks, stars and bullants (to mention a few). As I, too, tend to unexpectedly head off in new directions I thought I could do without having to read up on yet another subject in the natural world.

But then a few weeks ago I posted a blog about a beautiful cloud I had seen, and Marilyn sent me several photos of clouds she was excited about, and when I was in the bookshop the other day looking for Christmas presents I bought the book on the spur of the moment. I'm glad I did.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney runs a webpage for cloudspotters and his book about clouds is amusing and informative. It has become a Sunday Times bestseller. One reviewer wrote: 'It is possibly the most entertaining textbook ever written.'

Here are several examples of Gavin's style.

Compared with the frenetic and capricious convection clouds, the Stratus is a ponderous individual. It rarely bothers to shed much of its moisture – never managing more than a light drizzle or gentle snow. It takes its time arriving, and generally outstays its welcome when it does. This is not a cloud known for its spontaneity – it isn't the type to cause a commotion at picnics with a sudden downpour the moment the sandwiches are out of their foil. When there is a thick layer of Stratus above, people are just more likely to forget the picnic and opt for the cinema instead.

…the Nimbostratus is quite simply a thick, wet blanket, whose base is ragged and indistinct on account of its continually falling precipitation. It might be able to beat most of the other types in a fight, but it wouldn't get far in a cloud beauty contest.

Marilyn also gave me a software program that stitches photos together to make a panorama. She said that sometimes the full scale of a cloud can't be encompassed in one photo so several have to be taken and combined. Oh dear. I'm already torn between flowers and insects at eye level, and birds above my head. Now I have to look to the sky as well. And spend even more time on my computer playing around with images. There goes the ironing. The floors went long ago.

And I'll have to find time to check out the Cloud Appreciation Society's webpage


Dave said...

Wow! Who knew there was so much to know about clouds and there's a cloud appreciation society? I need to get out more. :)

boobook48 said...

Good to hear from you Dave.
Have a look at the cloud behind you on your profile photo. Now what type is that??? Homework.