Despite my predictions, it looks like the new year actually did bring in a very noticeable change. On Saturday January 2nd, for the first time since god only knows, the sky salivated at about 10am as I made my way along the streets of the Borgo Dora market. Many sellers packed up and left, but some remained hopeful while their tatty radios and bike lamps got a little sodden and the crowds turned away in disappointment. I remained outdoors for most of the day, and as I munched on an apple on the rainy walk home I felt like I had suddenly landed in England earlier than planned. Although these were the same streets I had known for exactly a month, I perceived them through the new acoustic environment of my raincoat hood. This wintery feeling was most reminiscent of being at home. My perception of the Italian environment has been rooted in my English background, and at once they were far more equal.
In the rainy streets there is no care for a sense of place – all that matters is that the place we want to be is not where we are right now. In the rainy city all streets become alike, and all surroundings merge into a blur of soggy concrete. The world was wet and grey, my fingers were numb, and my head too uninspired to look around. This was one of the few times I’d actually rather be at home than letting the open air flow my thoughts. It feels unoriginal to write about the weather but I cannot deny the fact that it motivates and inspires my thoughts more than just a little bit. So medial and apparently worthless to some is the topic of the weather, that it is filed under categories of ‘smalltalk’ and ‘idle chat’. Its terminology has been adapted into more ‘important’ topics such as economic climates or stock market forecasts. But even in the depths of concrete canyons the weather (of at least the natural environment) shapes many moods and decisions – to visit the museum in the morning or the afternoon, to cancel the walk, or to take a trip to the seaside. No number of ceilings can completely detach us from the sky, and this fascination has influenced many belief systems across cultures worldwide. Today as I looked out onto the fluffy plateau from the aeroplane window I saw the obverse of the vast ceiling that we live under, and whose laws we often live by, even if we do not realise it.
Without my pluvial English companion, my decisions in Turin have been more independent and this has made scheduling my time more difficult during my first weeks here. The grey days of late have led to a more desk-bound lifestyle that I had pictured when I applied for a winter residency here. This ‘pluvial companion’ has made me feel at home, because the image of rainfall completes my idea of normality. Last weekend ‘he’ visited, and today as I boarded the plane, I wondered if I’d meet him again on my arrival into Stansted.
Nowadays, plane journeys signify our progress in the invasion of the sky. Over the past hundred years humans have spread upwards into the sky like the American population spread west two centuries earlier. Today there is a lot to distract us from the feeling of flying that the Wright Brothers achieved. Before reaching the gate we must navigate through aisles of over-priced wine and chocolate. The plane interior is as comfortable as any earthly waiting room, and the salespeople that patrol the aisles are as persistent as market-sellers. Altogether the magic of being airborne has been lost to the undistracting earthly comforts of the contemporary western world. These are the gifts man has brought to the once-silent realms of the atmosphere, and as the satellites orbit further up, this space is the sphere of information as much as the earth is. In this ‘information age’ they are both precious human territories.
As we abseiled down the cumulonimbus, the heavenly glow became scattered between denser whites with localised showers beneath. Upon the runway, the dark horizon was a tornado compared to Turin’s weak mist, and when I stepped off the plane a sublime fresco of pastel blues and greys loomed overhead. I could not believe how different the air quality was – a cool glass of water after the spoonful of cinnamon that Turin served me. The Italians seemed to walk on disinterested in this change in flavour. Perhaps it was a little strange, but for me this was reality, as shaped by English skies and lower land. More potently, this was the smell of home.
The topic of the weather has survived the bombardment of media information because it is something that will always affect us. But more accurately it is our local ‘climate’ that shapes who we are, and it is easy to forget how the smallest change affects our perception of place, and disturbs our vision of reality. Today more notable changes in the natural environment are felt worldwide making it more important than ever to talk about the weather. Now that I am safely back in England, I have doubts whether I will take much notice of it in the long run, but at least today have learnt the importance of it in my practice (…of daily life). On this day, January 7th2016, I have been reunited with these clouds and winds of south east England, and certainly havn’t take them for granted.