Clouds and Rain

Clarens Clouds and Rain


It is approaching that time of year again when we get the candles out and keep the brolly by the door. Our picture this week was taken in Clarens just after the sun had set.  Most of us Free Staters know that the clouds that our province is most famous for are its cumulus clouds, those puffy clumps of cotton wool that drift benignly in loose formation across the sky, unthreatening and unpromising of rain.  It is not often that they turn into anything that might offer relief on a heat laden afternoon, but when they do, they present themselves in most spectacular form. It’s as if they visibly evolve before the eye, growing upward layer upon layer, burgeoning like multi-storied mushrooms, their underneath turning ever darker and more threatening.  These are the cumulonimbus clouds that bring rain, and are responsible for our characteristic highveld storms. In the flatter parts of the Free State it is possible to watch several unrelated thunderstorms going on at once.  To stand out in the open, dry and in full sunlight, and to see flashes of lightning on opposite horizons, to hear a distant rumble rolling across the bleak veld, to feel the sudden whip of cool air as it rustles the bleached grass and to get the smell of rain, is an exhilarating Free State sensation. The cloud in the photograph is not a typical cloud type of the Free State; however, it is not uncommon in these highlands of the Eastern Free State.  Its formation, which is known as lenticular, shaped like a lens, is caused by the movement of the wind and is almost always associated with a mountainous region.  They seldom produce any rain and most often will evaporate after a while. Now, in September, we look hopefully at the sky and agree enthusiastically with each other that we need rain.  We’ve had the wind, dry and blustery, whipping dust up, leaving static in everything we touch.  Now we long for the sound of steady rain falling through the night, the fresh and renewed scent of the morning, the rapid sprouting of green shoots. And, of course, along with this we’ll have the storms.  Those vindictive downpours and ravaging winds that are set in motion by our preparations to leave for work, or to leave work for home.  And this is what brings to the fore the dilemma of the umbrella.  Should we take it or should we leave it.  While it is designed to keep off the rain falling from above, it does little to keep the body below chest level dry when the storm driven rain falls in a sidelong slant.  And that’s assuming you have a sturdy umbrella.  Most umbrellas are apparently made to last for one storm only, or part thereof – the disposable kind that you turf in the bin on the way home, its wire struts pointing heavenward through shredded fabric. Assuming one arrives home unscathed by any storms, then the preparing of dinner will likely bring one on, which is when Escom fails and the candles, at the ready, come in handy.  It is also not a bad idea to have a gas stove handy.  The folk of Kgubetswana will tell you of its benefits, and that of paraffin, or wood. These folk also have a more sensible approach to brollies, which they use on hot still sunny days, for shade. The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at The Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email to .


Mary WalkerPhotography and text by Mary Walker

Clarens News: September 2013