Caught by the River

About Clouds

Joe Devlin | 22nd April 2017

Sky & Trees

A story by Joe Devlin. Pictures by David Mackintosh.

Today I recalled the day we sat together and spoke about clouds. I think you’d been reading up on them and wished to share your new found knowledge in this area of independent research. I remember you pointing up at one and estimating how long it would be before it disappeared, you told me to watch, to count to thirty in my head, you suggested a ten pence bet, certain it would dissipate before I reached this number and, sure enough, right before my eyes it vanished into thin air, I’d got to twenty- seven.


You told me that day you and your friends had been responsible for the landscaping of the beer garden we were sat in; the now mature oak trees in the far left corner were saplings when you planted them together. How the patio area, down at the bottom, where the rusty oil drum barbecue stands on tired legs, was built from reclaimed flags and donated sand and cement from the local builders’ yard, the plants, well they were clippings taken from various gardens from the properties you all lived in. This environment shaped by you and the gang.

Look up. Look up, quick. That wispy cloud to the left of the big one will be gone in fifteen seconds. Start the clock. Not a bad way to spend a few hours, looking up. Funny where you can find a pocket of peace, space only metres away from the main road, but the sound of the traffic cannot be heard back here, on the elevated lawn, in your company.

City view

I still go and sit at that bench, right at the back. At night I gaze up and attempt to comprehend the galactic fossil that bridges the gap between past and present, and matter never-dying.  Sometimes, when the garden is empty, which it is most of the time these days, I lie on the table top, light a cigarette, and I look at the clouds. From the almost unbroken blanket of grey stratus covered sky to the cartoon cumulus humilis in summer, or at the mackerel sky, the feathery, ever-changing, cirrus fibratus patterned expanse, see I’ve been reading up as well as looking up. I have won forty pence in bets so far.  Other days bring the gathering before the thunderstorm or the fast-moving clouds on the wind and the shadows cast, that pass over me, fleetingly connecting land and sky, a time-lapse quality. Yesterday I planted two sprouting apple seeds just behind the seat.


Content to Gather is the first collaborative project between Joe Devlin and David Mackintosh. It takes the form of a book published by Aye-Aye Books with writing from Devlin, drawings by Mackintosh and an afterword by Martin Holman. Limited to 500 copies. Design by Daren Newman. Priced at £10. To purchase, or for any other enquiries, please email