Clouds must be in an intermediate state, as yet scientifically unproven, between liquid and gas. If they were gas you couldn’t see them. If they were liquid they would fall out of the sky, as sometimes they do when leaning too far. I mention this anomaly to Brian (Mum and I went to visit uncle Brian) and we’re talking electrically charged dust particles surrounded by water vapour. So then, are we seeing vapour-coloured dust particles? I cannot imagine water vapour changing the colour of dust. You can’t see the dust in the first place. And water vapour is invisible.

Exactly what are we seeing in a cloud?

On the other hand, if clouds are liquid, what is holding them up? Coming home from uncle Brian’s, Mum and I discover the answer. Driving out of the shadow of Te Mata peak, the full moon and beautiful clear sky steal our attention. After awhile, Mum says “it’s always clear on a full moon.”

Bingo! Clouds cannot abide the full moon’s presence and must revert, like Cinderella at midnight, to vapour. Without this influence of the full moon, clouds are in some sort of intermediate state, and visible, like steam. And it is the sun which holds them up! Hence it so often rains at night in Napier.

In another place, there may be another answer.

According to Sam, who has a book on meteorology, fogs are clouds, only closer to the ground. Obviously, it only fogs at night. Maybe somewhat into the morning. Are there clouds up in the sky on a foggy night? I rest my case. Fogs are sunken clouds with no sun to hold them up, or moon to disperse them.

I should have been a lawyer.

On the other hand, my nephew Billy has since explained to me that when water vapour condenses to liquid it gives out heat to its environment, in this case to the surrounding air, and that it is this heated air which carries the virgin water droplet like a magic carpet. The upshot being that, possibly, I shouldn’t have been a lawyer.

Uncle Brian has the loudest laugh of any person. I found myself laughing too, helplessly, like an echo. I guess it could be a genetic thing. I thought on the way home: how many millions of people’s laughs no longer are? What would Emerson’s laugh sound like? As distinctive as his thumbprint? Unrepeatable but for a genetic echo?

In point of fact, I’m pretty sure Emerson didn’t laugh.

Grace’s sister Annie died the year before last. Of all the things about Annie that Grace remembers, it is her laugh that she hears still, and will not leave.

Thing about Uncle Brian’s laugh is, you can see right down his throat, with his tongue in the middle.

I have decided to call my record company Laughing Cloud Records.

Uncle Brian’s place is incredible, a west facing ten or twenty acres of land (how big it is he himself doesn’t know ha ha ha!) with a view to the sea. Four or five acres of grapes, stone outcrops everywhere twenty and thirty feet high, a man-made lake and waterfall, a winery, avocados, at least half a dozen scattered vegetable patches according to wherever a particular vegetable will grow best, a cellar, barbecue area and pizza oven all dug into the stone, a 350kg Japanese bell that you can hear in Waimarama, a magical bamboo forest with fantails so cheeky you could catch one in your hand, a Japanese style house..

It is a dream, down to the sculpture of a monk (himself) he is putting in the cellar, to the leadlight window in the cellar where the artist refused to include the quote “I am the vine” (blasphemy), to the giant tremolo of the bell dispelling a hundred and eight evil thoughts (there aren’t any more ha ha ha!), to the pigs who get a bottle each of uncle Brian’s pinot noir before they get shot. His latest adventure is truffles, to which end he has planted hazelnuts, and which was supposed to be the reason for our visit.

Everyone needs a dream.

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