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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, November 24, 2003
    About the weather
    Before heading home, I took an early-morning trip to Tate Modern to stand beneath The Weather Project's ponderous globe. Artist Olafur Eliasson is creating a microclimate in there every day of this year-long installation, via pipes and pumps sending out clouds. Being early the place was still fairly clear but in the odd light I couldn't help noticing that the floor was dewy-damp and that one person lying on it was holding up an umbrella.

    I got on the floor too - as did virtually every visitor, as did a group of junior school children who came in just after me and colonised the centre of the enormous Turbine Hall. Reason: Eliasson has made the ceiling a vast mirror - there's great fascination in laying down and seeing yourself way high, tiny beneath the vast misty space. In cathedrals you look into mirrors to see the ceiling, which comes down to meet you. Here, that experience is inverted/subverted as, utterly grounded, you watch yourself watching the weather, tiny in a clouds-eye view.

    The point of the thing is to encourage questions about how we see the weather; it does that well. As the fog formed in the gloom and I looked around me at people drained of colour by the mono-frequency sun (which renders all but yellow and black invisible), unfortunately it became a glum reminder of yesterday's journey through M6 mists and M1 torrents; as I looked at the back of my hands, they too drained of colour, I pictured them at the wheel again, and decided to set off home.

    Things brightened up from there though - I spent a good long time in the wonderful Tate shop buying stuff for me and Christmas presents, drove home in lovely afternoon sunlight, and back home ate in the light of a special candle - one I'd carried with me to the Yaconelli service, part of a pair, a spare in case one broke on the journey. Mike's light burning on again tonight. Burning kindly as I ponder fascinating questions Eliasson poses: How often do you discuss the weather? Do you believe the idea of weather in our society is based on culture or nature? Do you think that the weather or climate in any way impacts on your salary? In which season do you kiss your partner the most? In which season do you kiss someone other than your partner the most? If you could, would you like to control the weather?

    These remind me of something Pip once put on his website, which I printed out and stuck on the wall - lines from Somerset Maughan, who wrote:
      "For men and women are not only themselves. They are the region in which they were born, the city apartment in which they learned to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives tale they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poems they read, and the God they believed in".
    Indeed. And they are also the skies under which they walked, the weather they have enjoyed and endured....