It is minus something silly here at the cottage. Everything around us that can freeze has frozen. This means that it is officially the end of barbecue season. Every weekend we eat as much fish as we can get and we love the barbecued flavour. This means that in rain, gale and in winter darkness we find ourselves with head torches on and, ridiculously, barbecuing. This was all knocked on the head on Friday night when the lovely Sharon came in from the garden and incredulously demanded to know at what temperature butane freezes. From then a discussion began were we debated the chemistry of gas cylinders. The use of the word ‘freeze’ is wrong as the ‘gas’ is actually a liquid below zero (ish) and at those temperatures it is reluctant to become a gas and cook fish. That is why we do not use butane (yellow cylinder) for our kitchen cooker and use propane (red cylinder) instead. The geekyness of it all gave way to the practical; we must grill and winter is truly here.

Later that night I was doing part of my nightly routine. I was standing, in the dark, in the living room holding the little man for a snorey cuddle while his lovely mother prepared herself for his supper. The two of us stared out at the countryside (just me actually, he just snored at the countryside) and we spent a few moments absorbing the beauty of it all, the frozen landscape, the whiteness. Then two quick blue flashes flickered on the horizon. For a few seconds I waited for the crack as I was convinced it was fireworks. But then it came from a place on the horizon where I was sure there was no houses. Then there was no noise. It was late and so I did not give it much thought. I just mentally filled it as strange.

Over the weekend I forgot about it until a friend told me that he saw two bright blue flashes that he could not explain and wondered if I had any ideas. His blue flashes happened at the same time as mine but his were much brighter and were from a different direction on the horizon, again with no sound. We put our heads together and with the help of two physics colleagues we have our explanation:

Aliens

No; lightning. We triangulated our observations and came to the conclusion that it was lightning in the Mourne Mountains. The directions lined up and the brightness also matched. But the most remarkable things were the colour and the fact that I observed it at all. If I had not been looking in that direction I would not have seen it. I estimate myself to be nearly fifty miles away. The current high pressure system means cold weather but crystal clear air. The colour was probably a result of the weather too. The flashes would have bounced off the sides of mountains and hills that area all highly reflective and iced white. For me the science does not detract from the strangeness of it all and the snorey beauty of the moment.

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