This gets written down today, and not left any longer, so I don’t forget it.
I was jolted out of a dream about school. Why are so many dreams about school? I was jolted out, and it felt like a sharp jolt, into a shaking bed.
It was all over very quickly. Reading this post will take you much longer than the time it took in reality, so try to imagine this compressed tightly. I had time to think: something big is crashing, a truck, a plane. An army is marching down the street outside, their tanks rumbling and shaking everything. The room was shaking, and the shaking was building up, and a very deep and loud rumbling sound was getting stronger too. Something in the plumbing went splang! I was picturing a burning something outside, still, but the shaking faded away, gently and slowly. Still waking up, I realised everything was still, and the thought popped into my head: we’ve just had an earthquake. A strong earthquake. It didn’t occur to me just how unusual that was, until the next morning.*
By the time the shaking stopped, it was about 6 or 7 seconds since I’d woken up. Groggily, I stumbled downstairs. Everything was intact, and nothing had fallen over; but the cat was racing about like a mad thing. So I did what anyone would have done: logged on to the computer and wrote a blog post about it.
* A thousand years ago it might not have been that unusual, interestingly enough. There’s a small chance that bigger earthquakes are going to be much more common from now on.
This might seem like a strange thing to say at 1am, but: I’ve just been woken up by an earthquake. That was odd.
The rather news-thin Grimsby Telegraph newspaper has decided to jump on a fish-marketing bandwagon and declare today to be Great Grimsby Day. A day to be proud of the Grimsby area! Its scenic mudflats! Its thriving heroin-injecting scene! The active support for boxing and extreme wrestling seen in the town centre every Saturday night! The wide range of chain-based shopping opportunities, and the picturesquely decaying industrial areas. Be proud, people!
It’s a good thing, I suppose, that they didn’t get it confused with National Fetish Day, which – equally arbitrarily – was yesterday. I hate to think what would have happened. There’s not much of a fetish scene in Grimsby, after all; a couple of the regulars in the Lloyds Arms and that’s about it. I can quite easily imagine the Grimsby Telegraph’s staffers not understanding what the word means.
Today’s blog is like one of those spot-the-difference puzzles where you have to spot hard-to-find differences between two apparently identical pictures. To make it a little bit different, though: here’s a carefully-prepared Spot The Non-Difference puzzle, where (for a change) you have to spot the hard-to-find connection between two apparently little-related pictures.
Firstly, we have a photo I first spotted in today’s Guardian. It’s a publicity still from the award-winning film Atonement, and shows James McAvoy hard at work apparently invading war-torn France:
Secondly, this photo, taken by Dimitra, some years ago now:
Yes, I’m pretty sure they were taken at almost the same location, although, to be quite honest, if I didn’t already know that Atonement was filmed in the Symbolic Forest area, I’m not sure I would have spotted the link between them.
Overheard in the street:* a parent (or guardian) and child:
Child: I’ve got a headache.
Parent: You don’t have a headache. You’re seven. You can only get headaches when you’re older.
Local news time: a teenager was murdered last week, just by the doorstep of Great Great Aunt Mabel’s house. Great Great Aunt Mabel didn’t have anything to do with it, though, as she died in 1983. Nevertheless, I’ve never been allowed to forget, by The Mother, every time we pass, who lived there. “That was your Nanna’s Auntie Mabel’s house, next to the bookmakers’”. My own memory of the house is at once faint and vivid: sneaking into the scullery to play with the coal in the coal-scuttle. Auntie Mabel was the last householder in the family still to use coal for heating, back in the heyday of post-punk and Scargill. She moved into a sheltered home a couple of years before she died; in my memory, the glass in the front doors of the home was always being smashed by vandals. She died cleaning; found on her hands and knees by her bed, still holding her dustpan and brush.
* Post House Wynd, Darlington, in case you were wondering
This week, it’s started to turn to autumn. I’ve closed my bedroom window, the mornings are getting cold, and the morning air is damp and ashy-smelling.
Today, summer ends and autumn begins; but the weather was already turning. Now we’re moving towards Yuletide, the skies darkening day by day. In a few weeks, the clocks will change, and I’ll hardly see the sun.
Tonight I drove past the steelworks, and they were doing a burn. Great gouts of flame poured out of their chimneys, high into the night sky, lighting up the town and countryside. Our own little industrial bonfire night. We light fires, and we know the sun will come back again.
Everyone has a flood story at the moment. Lots of people who couldn’t drive home, who had to abandon their cars in the street. People whose houses were cut off, who had to wade home. Phone photos of water, water, everywhere. Some rivers burst their banks last night, and have expended themselves, run out of effort. Other rivers are still rising—our Doncaster branch office was evacuated late this afternoon, and the escaping staff saw rescue officers tying motorboats up in the dry streets, ready for the flood water expected to come.
I’ve stayed dry myself, although at some points last night we were cut off and surrounded by the water, if we’d tried to go out. I slept fitfully, wondering if it would rise more, creep over the front step and into the hallway. And the clouds outside are dark again; still more rain to come.
A few months back now, the famously low-quality Local Council decided to spend lots and lots of money on flood warning equipment. They picked the most advanced flood warning system they could find, and erected enormous, giant-scale towers around the town, with large banks of speakers on top. They published maps of the town, with circles spattered over them, looking rather like those 1980s maps of nuclear blast radius,* so everyone knew which areas would be able to hear the flood sirens.
And now, with the worst rainfall for years, and roads closed or barely passable all over town, what have the flood sirens done? Absolutely bugger all, of course. Because that’s not the sort of flood they’re designed for. They’re to warn us against floods from the river defences failing, or the New Haven** bursting its banks. Neither have happened, although the New Haven looked to be within a few inches of a breach yesterday. Instead, we have flooding here because the Council don’t bother cleaning the drains out, so all the rainwater puddles on the roads.
* Talking of nuclear blast radius, who was the “psychic” who “predicted” that Hull would be destroyed by a nuclear attack in 1981? I really must look him up some time.
** It’s the “New” bit of the sluggish stream running through town, because it was cut in the sixteenth century.
You often see stuff about road safety on the telly. Less often, things about specific roads. And it’s very rare for this area – the Forest, if you like to think of the Symbolic Forest as a physical place – to get on the telly at all. So when I heard that there was an hour of Channel Four last night solely devoted to road safety in this area, I had to watch it. Even more specific than that: it was purely about one road, the one from here down to Somerset.
We didn’t manage to watch the whole thing; the catalogue of deaths was just too depressing. It wasn’t helped by my habit of saying “That’s the bend coming out of Fir Park” or “That’s just by Cottagers’ Plot” when random stretches of road were shown on-screen; I spend so much time trying to get out of this area, I know all the main roads out of here in great detail. As we didn’t see it through to the end, I don’t know if the documentary tried to offer up any reason why that particular road is so dangerous. All we got was: people round here are crap at driving.
This may be true. Certainly, in my experience, it is true. People in London, say, may have a reputation for bad, aggressive driving, but people in this area are good at sloppy, careless driving; or drunk, too-fast driving; and that’s what leads to so many people dying on a fairly short, fairly ordinary road. It’s because, paradoxically, this area is quiet and isolated, compared to the rest of the country. The question is: is there anything we can do about that?
Photo post of the week: photos from the archives, because I haven’t been out and about. These are all from 1996, I think; so this is what the 1990s looked like, to my eyes at any rate.