In the last few years, I’ve become less and less inclined to update my social media accounts. I post over on Instagram sporadically, and occasionally see what other people are tweeting about, but this blog has become little more than a repository for old poems and notes.
Every once in a while, though, I realise that the short texts and formats allowed on other platforms are insufficient for what I want to say.
Today, the BBC weather page suggested we would have a fairly rare appearance of the sun in a clear sky. In fact, the reality, as is so often the case, has been somewhat different. But it got me pondering the phrase “blue-sky thinking”.
I’m pretty sure that I first heard the expression used in business back in the eighties, and it wasn’t a positive term. It was generally used to describe the ungrounded and unfounded dreams of the boss; unrealistic views of a bright future, of success based on nothing but optimism and someone else’s hard work.
Now, though, the term is used as a short-hand for the sort of unbounded creative brainstorming that puts budget constraints and other limitations to one side and may result in real progress jumps and innovation.
And what could be more innovative than spy technology? Or so one might think.
In fact, the big white balloon floating in the clear blue skies of North America this last week, and variously described (by the Chinese) as a weather device and (by the States) as a surveillance craft, has reminded me of nothing so much as Rover, the bouncing bubble that guards the limits of the Village in The Prisoner. While the TV series may have been futuristic when it came out in 1967, it is delightfully dated now.
Whether or not the disparate descriptions make it a UFO, the balloon is not the only strange thing to appear in the skies in the last week or so. Initially at least, there didn’t seem to be a clear explanation for the “spinning spiral whirlpool” in the skies over Hawaii and it was quickly linked with adjectives such as “ghostly”, “mysterious” and “bizarre”.
Subsequently, it has been suggested the phenomenon could have been related to fuel being dumped during a SpaceX satellite launch. Or, as one headline had it, it was “Elon Musk’s fault”.
Another night sky phenomenon in the news has been the green comet which, after a journey of some 50,000 years, made its closest approach to Earth just a couple of days ago. I guess I had plenty of time to prepare, but I didn’t get out to see it.
As you may have noticed, the links I’ve put to news stories are all from the BBC news website. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of the reporting. Indeed, given how consistently wrong their weather forecasts are, perhaps I should find a better source of information. But this is a blog, and it’s meant to be creative writing not news reporting, so perhaps it doesn’t matter: it was, after all, the unfounded optimism of the BBC weather page that triggered my desire to write this post.
I started the day expecting blue skies and went out for a walk with that in mind. Instead I found pallid winter sunshine filtered through bare tree branches and high cloud.
But I remember, years ago, when we used to go on holiday as a family to the English coast. Invariably, the days would start less than sunnily, with heavy mist rolling off the sea to mirror the cloud cover. And inevitably, we children would pout and bemoan our bad luck. But I can remember the reassuring words of our parents – philosophers in their own small way – who would tell us not to worry: “it’s only a heat haze.”
This morning’s “heat haze” didn’t burn off like the sea mists of my childhood, and today certainly hasn’t been all blue skies. But, even when it’s no more than tenuous, winter sunshine is still rather nice.