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Sky Like Norfolk

The beginnings

It started with a Tweet. There was a picture of a stormy sky and the comment that "no-where does sky like Norfolk". I was inclined to agree. I was sitting on a train with a soggy bottom – me not the train – I'd been walking on the Holt-Cromer ridge and not noticed my jacket riding up under my back-pack: result damp nether regions which weren't as uncomfortable in the walking as they were in the sitting down.

There were two moments in the walk that led me to total agreement about the sky: the first one was watching the rain track its way across our forward horizon and sweep round and me hoping that it would keep seawards of us (it didn't); the second was later when we looked back to the west from the Coast Watch lookout and saw the kind of dramatic sky that has you going "Wow! Look at that!"

I did look…I did say "Wow, look at that!"…but because I was walking with a friend and we'd been in chatter mode, I didn't have my camera in my hand and the moment passed. What was I thinking?!

Sitting on the train, I asked myself the same question.

And I've asked it again since. Thinking about it led me back to thinking about other skies that have had me transfixed. A splendid skyscape that RV & I tracked from the midlands across the Cambridgeshire fens into Norfolk one evening, with ever-shifting cloud-forms, amber light, and multiple rainbows. Sunsets and sunrises. Distant rains. Clear bright blue. And cotton wool clouds. Jacobs ladders and Thor's anvils. Snippets preserved only in memory.

So slowly the idea was born…to look at the sky more…to take more pictures where it is the foreground not the backdrop, the point not the counterpoint.

I had the notion of seeking a skyscape every day for a year.

I originally wanted to stay true to the notion that nowhere does sky like Norfolk, but whilst most of my skies will be Norfolk skies, because this is where I (mostly) live and walk and work, I also live and walk and work in other places. I know that I cannot guarantee to be in county every day for a solid month let alone a whole year (the fates forfend!) so the remit expands into whichever sky I am under on any given day.

Perhaps the addition of other skies might come to answer to the truth or otherwise of the proposition…perhaps we will find out if anywhere does do sky like Norfolk.

Because my walking year starts early in November it makes sense to start the sky chronicle on the same day. Tying the walking and sky-watching together. But I am impatient and I have started to dabble early.

In setting out on this mild, slightly wild, escapade I have no idea where it is going to lead me – whether into science or philosophy or art – history or geography – the profound or the banal – I don't in fact have any idea whether I can even sustain the notion for a year, much less control what direction it decides to go in. So I am not going to try… let's just see what happens.

Naturally the day that I decide to start training for this year-long endeavour, the universe behaves like the average computer and immediately responds with an "Are you sure?" message. I had a meeting scheduled that involved a two-&-a-half mile walk each way on the shortest route…plenty of time for interesting vistas. Hmmm…the most boring sky of them all, dull greyness with scarce a thing to be said of it. Even the walk added no spice to the mix, purely functional, work-focussed.

The next day was bright and sunny and full of scattered fluffiness. Nothing dramatic. My day was hijacked by a missing cook book whose absence stole two hours from me in a fruitless search. I managed a quick snap on my way to the supermarket but found myself more taken with the autumn colours in the hedgerows.

Then life took over for a while…or at least painting a ceiling and walls and woodwork did. A snatched glimpse of the chimney sky-line through the window was as close as I came to paying attention to anything out of doors at all.

It was the middle of October before I picked it up again…and this time on a day when I understood exactly why the project had spoken to me in the first place. Walking on the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea is one of the best ways to understand what folk mean by the broad open sky of Norfolk. Doing so at this out-of-season time, when you can have huge swathes all to yourself is nothing short of blissful. It was October, I should NOT have been able to paddle in the North Sea – not without flinching at any rate – so it was both a boon and a worry to be able to do so. Bright skies and warm sunshine. It felt like summer. But it wasn't. The seasons are shifting without a doubt. We used to call it an Indian Summer if it was this warm in mid-September, we were heading towards the clock change and the thought of sunbathing on a Norfolk beach was still a rational one. I wallowed in the sunlight, but worried for the planet.

Pick your cloud formation and you'd probably have spotted it that day. I won't even pretend to name them. I've bought the book and will set about learning. Maybe by the end of my sky year I will know what they're called and what they portend, but for now I'm stuck with child-words of fluffy and streak and dull heavy grey. No grey today. All bright white and blue. Seaside skies if ever there were…and then just to prove that I really do want to do this, the universe gifted me a sunset to accompany my ride home.

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