RED SKY in the morning, shepherd’s warning, runs the old saying.
There have been many this winter.
Here was one of the best, in early January.
Several people photographed it at daybreak and somebody in Sussex got this glorious blanket of alto cumulus on to the local TV weather picture that evening.
I took my photo from the garden, with an oak silhouetted in the coppice wood.
There was frost on the ground, and a cold, clear moment of tranquillity as if this was the start of a calm voyage into the new year.
A roe doe stood still as I came out of the house and was only 20 paces from me, a bramble leaf in her mouth, before she bounded off into the hazels.
Blackbirds and blue tits hovered around, wondering why I was not carrying their food to them.
The two crows murmured some sort of guttural greeting from atop their pine tree.
They know I am harmless, and often seem to comment to one another about what is happening around them.
A woodcock flew across the red clouds, huddled on the broomstick shape of its long beak.
And in that moment a song thrush sang, and answering, all the thrushes across the county.
I was reminded of Ravel’s dawn awakening in his ballet Daphnis and Chloe.
For ten minutes the clouds held their chords of fire.
As the sun came closer to the rim, they turned gold, then almost the white heat of candescence.
Surely it was to be a lovely day.
Pheasants challenged the brightening trees, and strode along the level branches, and their colours were as burnished bronze and lapis lazuli, and the finest silver.
I could see the leaves of primroses breaking through as daylight brightened, and buds of snowdrops sharp as bullets as they pierced the old year’s ground.
Dog’s mercury leaves had already unfolded from the wet earth.
It was easy to imagine the whole bright carpet of flowers on their way. Spring was near.
But there was that warning in the sky.
All I was admiring was the curtain coming down. This was just another warm front from the Atlantic.
That night we had 37mm of rain. By the end of January, I had measured 366 mm, about 15 inches for the month.
The River Lavant wound like a silver snake through the valley and then writhed in its tunnels under the city, breaking white froth from its mouth as it emerged again then spread itself into an inland sea at Apuldram, drowning meadows, marooning trees and hedgerows and almost into homes.
Still the warnings come from the ancients, who called this month February Filldyke.