The weather has turned warm since the Spring Festival with clear blue skies and temperatures still up around 20o by 7pm; and although chilly at night, certainly not the minus figures we experienced only a few weeks ago. Which is why I am surprised to see mist high in the mountains this morning.

But it doesn’t burn off as I would have expected: it slides along the ridge between the mountains and rises into the air.

The plume of smoke is white at first, but as the day progresses it gathers among its billowing folds such delicate hues of permanent rose, lemon yellow, deep cobalt and Windsor blue green shade – even touches of Pane’s grey, if ever one use it. And an Indian red in its belly, the fire itself hidden deep in the gully and out of sight.

I watch in fascinated horror as the smoke charts the progress of the fire, racing down the gulley, consuming tinder-dry forest. Fanned by south-westerly winds, there are brief glimpses of the fire itself as it licks the ridge, but mostly this is shrouded in smoke.

Then, as night descends, the extent is more apparent; as splinters of it extend over the ridge – bright pinpricks of light on the horizon suddenly flaring, glowing. Each bright light a tree engulfed in flame, an unattended candle wick.

And ironically, here we all sit this evening, with lighted candles: the power goes out at 5pm in this part of town, and only a few sections of the city have any electricity at all.

Bar Street is one of them – they pay the highest rents, after all…

I need to make a Skype call this evening and find a café which still has power. On my way back to the Guest House I move out of the lit area and into darkened streets, the small shops and cafés illuminated only by candles.

These ancient streets are so narrow that the light reflects off the shutters and windows on the opposite side. I see people guiding their way with the screen of their mobile phones, but mostly it’s dark shadows slipping silently past each other.

I’m reminded of the time I went round the Ilford photographic laboratory – oh, back in the late ‘70s when I was studying photography at Harrow – and of course all the processes are carried out in the dark. But all the corridors are also in the dark, and people walk along the edges blindly, saying repeatedly, “Mind me, mind me, mind me…”

It’s 22:30 and the power kicks in – I’m alerted to this as a fuzzy, crackling sound comes from the kettle. How I managed to knock this on in the dark, I don’t know. Instinctively I turn on the light, but I find it harsh and intrusive, and now prefer candles, wondering why I haven’t spent my evenings like this before.

I look out the window at the necklace of lights on the mountains: wonder what lives may have been lost; what animals, what creatures, what plants, habitats destroyed.

One thing I have learned, in the last few years – while human nature tries to exert some order in the world, we fail quite miserably. Change comes – sometimes gradually, allowing us to adapt perhaps; or rapidly.

And when it is rapid, it is perhaps because of our human nature that we survive. But not all.

Advertisements