Friday 16 April 2010

Sunsets and Silent Skies

With volcanic ash bringing the skies of Britain to an eerily silent, vapour-trailless halt - if you're thinking of visiting Kew Gardens, go now - the minds of us old-timers naturally turn back to 1816, 'the year without a summer'. Following the tremendous eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, most of the world suffered a bitterly cold, cloudy, wet summer, with crop failures and widespread famine. The up side was that the sunsets were unusually spectacular - there's a theory that this explains the look of some of Turner's paintings of the time, but his sunsets from any period are amazing enough without meteorological explanations. We also owe Frankenstein and the Mormons to that cold wet summer - Frankenstein because Mary Shelley and friends were forced indoors by the rain and passed the time writing their horror stories, and the Mormons because crop failure forced Joseph Smith's family to move to Palmyra, New York, triggering a chain of events that would result in the Book of Mormon. So far, the London sunset has been unremarkable, and of course a cold summer is out of the question, what with all this global warming (hem hem). Anyway the Icelandic eruption - which might very probably herald far more devastating eruptions on that long-suffering island - is very small beer when there's a Prime Ministerial Debate to be covered. Last night's BBC Ten o' Clock News actually devoted a full 20 minutes to that non-event - which anyone that interested would have watched anyway - before getting round to the small matter of the Icelandic volcano and the first-ever peacetime closure of all UK airspace.


  1. Do you suppose works of art comparable to Turner's paintings and Shelley's novel might be produced over this weekend? Some budding writer being stuck in an airport and setting pen to paper perhaps. Somehow I can't see the product being as inspiring.

  2. Such a pleasure to have my own thoughts confirmed. The massive focus on the election is totally out of proportion. How can a 'force majeure' be trivialised (unless by the major force of the insurance companies)? Nature (and yes, beautiful art by Turner) surely transcend the mundane? Don't ask me about my flight this weekend..