That line between awe-inspiring and crippling fear is never thinner than in the imagination of a child. I see it in our own kids, the scales of fear versus wonder strike a balance as they experience unfamiliar environments, people, and objects. And it reawakens those same emotions I experienced growing up. 

As a child living in the suburban borders between Greater London and Surrey, there were many (seemingly) unearthly moments, typically after dark. Encounters that almost maleficently hover that boundary between amazement and trepidation. 

Blood-curdling cries of foxes cavorting in the graveyard that adjoined our garden, sporadic flashes illuminating the night sky and piercing the bedroom curtains, caused by the sparks of local train lines, and deafening planes that sounded so close they might take the roof off the house. 


As well as the gremlins and zombies, I also used to imagine wondrous marvels too and at Christmas time I would look out of the same bedroom window, almost expectantly, hoping to catch a glimpse of the “Bethlehem Star”. Naturally, I never saw the celestial apparition made familiar by all my parents’ greeting cards. However this Christmas, something just as wondrous and unbelievable appeared across British skies…

Rainbow Clouds / Nacreous Clouds in Yorkshire Skies

The appearance of Rainbow or Nacreous clouds in the UK is a rarity. And their unexpected emergence, for me at least, revived that same childlike sense of awe versus foreboding, as my limited brain tried to rationale these unfamiliar illusions.

Nacreous clouds are caused by light (usually when the sun is low or even below the horizon) catching the fine ice particles that typically hover high in the Stratosphere. They’re sometimes known as polar stratospheric clouds and can only form in temperatures below -78°C.  The extreme temperatures make this phenomenon very unlikely outside of the polar regions and for us to see the event in the UK it requires the temporary displacement stratospheric polar vortex; or a Christmas miracle!

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