This is a Picture of Wind by J.R. Carpenter

4 out of 5 stars

The British always find time to talk, and complain, mostly, about the weather it is a natural obsession. I am one of them, I find the way that the weather works around our planet endlessly fascinating. I often stop in when walking to take pictures of the beautiful cloud formations that we often get on the south coast. The weather is one of the most complex systems on our planet and it takes a supercomputer to produce a forecast for the next few days. Good as they are now, the ability for these computers to predict precisely what the weather is going to be in 4 months time in the afternoon is impossible.

I am not alone in this mild obsession, artists, writers and poets have this fascination too. J.R. Carpenter is one and this gem of a book is her response to the storms that battered the south-west in 2014. They caused catastrophic flooding in the Somerset levels and destroyed a railway line in Devon. I remember it well as it felt like it was never going to end.

This is a Picture of Wind is her response to those storms but with a focus on the wind, that movement of airs that you can feel but not see. She has mined her notebooks to find words and phrases that partially describe what is happening as we observe.

Trees grey with age. A pewter sky. Gleams light around the edges

I really liked this book, it is as simple as it is elegant with its prose. By taking the phrases that the weather forecasters use to describe what is going to happen and removing the context of when and where means that you can appreciate the beauty of each of the phrases. There are five sections to the book, The Beaufort Poems, A year at Tottenham, A Year at Sissinghurst, A Year at Sharpham and the Month Arrays. Each part reflects the dynamic ability of the weather to constantly and continually change. If you like list to the Shipping Forecast just for the pleasure of hearing the intonation of the phrases then you will probably love this. As part of the project, this is linked to a website that has live weather data here or follow  on Twitter to see regular updates.

This book is a beautiful tiny object too, and if there was one flaw, I would have liked it to be longer. For those that like watching the wind, this video of real-time wind systems across the planet is mesmerising.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Is there a lot about Sissinghurst? One of my favourite places in the world.

    • Paul

      Not that much to be honest. I have only been there once, along with Great Dixter which I thought was great

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