The main line that heads out due West from London towards Swansea provides great views of the English countryside.The tracks are often raised on big beds of gravel, providing us with superb views across the surrounding fields. The first cut of this season’s hay has just been made, leaving doogle bales dotting the landscape. Moo cows, meahs and neigh-neighs also feature prominently – I wonder why we need so many horses?
But it’s the sky that really grabs the attention. Sunny, with rainy patches, it’s essentially blue, but with two distinct layers of periodic cloud. High-up there’s the seemingly motionless candy-floss cumulous grand-daddies, and below them, a few hundred metres from the ground, wispy floaty teenage clouds. The speed of the train and relative distance of the two types creates a dramatic sense of the different attitudes towards life these two types take. The teenagers are playing games with their shadows, their favourite being “How many cows can you make sit down?” The Grand-daddies meanwhile have long since said goodbye to those days of racing across the landscape. They’re happy to sit in their armchairs, smoking their pipes and sending great puffs up into to sky above them. Looking down, they share stories of the time that they were young whippersnappers, mischievously relieving themselves on the shoppers in Chippenham and Bath. They see the train I’m on speeding to the West; “remember in the old days the trains would send up those great clouds of smoke! Used to make me cough they did. Never did get any compensation from the environment agency”.
That’s the kind of thing clouds talk about. That and the group on the social networking site Cloudbook that has secretly formed to organise a mass protest against pollution over the Beijing Olympics. They’ve heard that the humans are planning to use rockets loaded with chemical warheads against them, but the leaders of the movement are steadfast in their resolve. They will not disperse.