0950/5th June 2023

Last week because of wildfire smoke our Air Quality Index was in the high 40’s.

Riding along, happily snapping pictures yesterday, I glanced at my phone and reported that our AQI had dropped to 15 which was brilliant.


The sky was moody, but the air clean.


We arrived home at 1130 just in time to provide cat lunch without receiving demerits for tardiness.

A delightful day.


Around 4 pm, I went out to do my afternoon top-ups.

What had happened to our fine clean air?

The index was now 54!

Enough to trigger an alert for anyone with compromised breathing etc.


This morning the AQI was 112


As I write we are up to 121…

To keep things in perspective, it is not that bad.

Not for people who can take precautions.


But what of them?


As I have only recently become aware of its existence, I can’t say whether the smoke-forecast is more accurate than the weather forecast.

It currently calls for improving conditions followed by worstening a few days later.

As of 1215…we can hardly see the distant hill and the AQI is 148.


For me the sight of smoke is almost more disturbing than any other effect is could have.

Then I recalled the summer of ’62…


My father’s UNESCO contract had expired again at the end of 1961 but he refused to return to England in winter.

My final weeks at the school in Cambodia had been tense due to political problems, so I did not return.

We spent four care-free months in Penang, Malaysia after which Mum and I boarded the (sadly ill-fated) Royal Rotterdam Lloyd ship :

ms Wilhelm Ruys.


What a modest little ship she seems now. Leaving Penang, we sailed “home” the long way round, across the Pacific.

Dad flew to the States, hoping to sell a book and further delaying his return to England.


In due course we came to live in the end flat here, in Richmond.(I still remember the landlord’s name. Is that weird?)

To my utter disgust, although is was just weeks till the end of term, I was enrolled at yet another convent school nearby.

Was I to be eternally “the new girl”?

What was I going to learn in such a short time? I much preferred being home monitoring the comings and goings of BEA stewardesses who occupied the flat across the square.


And watching the endless stream of air traffic passing overhead while listening to music or plays on my tiny transistor radio.

The school year over, finally after 6 years, we reunited with my brother and lived again very briefly as a family.

Mum was in her element with a proper kitchen and ingredients she understood. There was a glut of apricots and we ate them in every form possible till I was sick of them.


Peter and I were now teenagers, no longer the kids that had known one another. But my brother is kind-hearted and we got on quite well.

My parents, both smokers had to accept that Peter was too . Which meant I shared a two bedroom flat with 3 heavy smokers.

Dad, perpetually afraid of drafts, refused to have a window open.

Peter and I took turns sleeping on the sofa in the living room, which after a night of playing cards and smoking, was rather a pit.


Not unlike the fug we currently have outside. The sky has turned brown and thunder is crashing all around, shaking the house.

It is actually quite ominous.

“This is what it will be like, at the end.”

Always one to come up with a cheering thought, I am.


The AQI is 159 but it has started to rain and if we get enough, hopefully the air will clear.

At 1415, it is almost dark.

It is thundering and the latest alert is for a possibility of damaging hail.

My afternoon top-ups may be delayed.

Or it could all blow over.

5 thoughts on “Ominous

  1. As always – thank -you. And may those rains clear it out and may they also head north and fall in all the right places. Just a short cracking thunderstorm here in NYC.

  2. Thank you, Carolyn, for more details of your unusual childhood. I can now understand better your need of therapy, sad thoughts, and your trust in animals rather than humans. Still, your have done very well being independent, talented and kind. Respect!


  3. I don’t think we always realise what a privilege it is to breathe clean air. Here with us, the air is very clean – if we go for a walk early in the morning, it is fresh air that we breathe and I am always grateful for that. But wow, you’ve had a stormy day (between the smoke filled skies) … I hope the rain has brought some relief – to both the earth and the sky!

  4. I read on the BBC website that the air quality is bad where you live, due to Canadian wildfires. I was just thinking about how that might affect you, then I clicked on your blog post. Take care, dear Carolyn.
    As for living in Richmond, that was luxury! Even sharing a sofa-bed. That same year, I was living in a flat in Bermondsey, south London. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

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