Tuesday, 18 February 2014

That sinking feeling

For a long time it was alien abduction that exercised my half-waking hours. One minute I would be queueing in the '10 items or less' aisle with this week's Exchange and Mart and a bag of fun size Mars bars. I blink and suddenly I'm surrounded by funny little blue people with their brains on the outside talking to me, all squiggeldy bloop, while attaching jump leads to my nipples and prodding pipe cleaners into parts untouched by daylight. Typically this is where I wake up. Or wet myself.

And in any case, it should be "10 items or fewer". That's basic stuff. Even Martians know that.

Recently the focus of my daymares has shifted. And whilst I don't wish to downplay the alien menace, my current worry is sinkholes. You know the kind of thing -- huge, house size holes in the Earth's crust that appear spontaneously and swallow your car, caravan or dinghy. Or worse still, your house. You may be sat on the toilet with the Sunday Times crossword when suddenly half your house detaches itself and tumbles towards the Earth's core leaving you waving to the neighbours across the abyss and wondering if it took the refrigerator.

Now I know that this is statistically less likely than being struck by lightning or being gored by wild boar, but that's not the point. It's rather like being told on a flight that only one plane in every hundred thousand crashes. Frankly I don't care about the other 99,999 planes. I only care about this one. And if there have already been 99,999 flights without incident, obviously a crash is overdue.

Again, my head knows that statistics don't work like that. But it still didn't stop me thinking about alien abductions and giving funny looking kids with big heads and blue T-shirts a wide berth.

Wikipedia, that source of unquestionable online authority, tells us that common factors in many sinkholes are the presence of underground aquifers combined with persistent torrential rainfall. Certainly that was the case in the 2010 Guatamala City sinkhole, 20 m wide and 100 m deep, which swallowed a three story office block. And if you have never seen a picture of a sinkhole, look that one up on Wikipedia.

All this would be of little more than academic interest to me, were it not for two niggling facts.

Firstly, we live in a spa town and, without detailing my precise address, suffice it to say that the name of our street has a decidedly aquatic ring to it -- River Road, Aqua Avenue, Tsunami Street, Monsoon Mews. That sort of thing. I also know for a fact that a freshwater spring emerges from the ground less than 100 yards from our front door. Underground aquifers -- tick.

All we need now is persistent torrential rainfall.

Oh, well I guess we can tick that box as well, as we face the wettest December, January and February on record.

Suddenly, we are, in a very real sense, potentially staring into the abyss. To be honest, I was a lot happier worrying about the little blue guys and their electrodes than the possibility that our ground floor might become Ground Zero.

And to think that I was going to recarpet this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment