For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Did The Earth Move For You?

Early this morning at 1am the UK had its biggest earthquake for 25 years. It measured 5.2 on the Richter scale. Very minor compared with quakes in places like Japan or the American West Coast, I know. More of a little tremor really. But for our village this was quite an event. We were very near the epicentre, which was close to the Lincolnshire market town of Market Rasen.

You won't believe this, but I had a sort of dream premonition. I'd fallen asleep around midnight, but then woken abruptly in a hot sweat. I'd had a vivid and frightening nightmare about 3 gangsters breaking into the house with numerous policemen in hot pursuit. I was just drifting off to sleep again shortly before 1 o'clock, when the floor started shaking and my wife more or less fell out of bed. There was a loud, rumbling, vibrating noise. At the same time my daughter, who is staying with us at the moment, screamed downstairs. A few seconds later she burst into our bedroom.

I was already out of bed and into my dressing gown. My first thoughts were: gas explosion, chip pan fire (bizarrely - but we had been deep frying chips earlier), a car crashing into the house, or a lorry careering into the pub nearby (it's happened twice before!) My daughter - who does tend to panic anyway - recounted how she'd been watching TV when everything in the room began to shake: windows, light fittings, books on their shelves. Accompanied by the same unearthly whining vibration I'd heard upstairs.

Then my wife said 'earthquake' and everything started to add up. I rang the joined-on neighbours - to satisfy myself that their oven or dishwasher hadn't exploded putting us all in deadly peril - and was breezily informed 'Oh, we think it's just an earthquake!'

Panic over.

Interesting fact: when I walked outside a few minutes later with a torch to examine our chimney stacks for possible damage, I noticed all the birds had suddenly started singing...

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