CLOUDS We are preoccupied with ourselves in unhelpful ways. The clouds, however, are usefully indifferent to all our concerns. They don’t care about fashion. They are uninterested in gossip. They are not responsive to our status or lack of it. We are always close to these vast, quiet things. A grey tuft detaches itself in the break up of a great continental bank of cloud. It inches its way across the sky, slowly losing definition. Ten minutes later it is barely recognisable. And shortly after that, it merges with another cloud and its brief individual career is over. Islands of clouds form, make chains, nations, empires, then drift and dissolve – like a peaceful, silent, painless repetition of the turbulent mayhem of human history. There is a constant drama above our heads: collisions, fractures, swirls, separations… Human life is no less active, but it can mean a moment of relief from our particular involvements to look up and be returned to a broader perspective, from where the agitations of the present moment will seem less significant – as they will for us too with time (even if we are incapable of holding on to this idea on most of the occasions we need it). It will all pass, even the current nastiness and enmities, like the clouds that seemed so fixed and heavy but an hour ago – and yet have now all moved on, leaving behind only two or three of their cohorts, apologetic and timid before the victorious sun, like the cowed remnants of a scattered army.