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Hayes House Pages

Monday, 7 June 2010

Earthquakes at Tesco

There's nothing better than a calm reassuring presence in a crisis is there? I wouldn't know. In a crisis the person I usually have to guide me through the misfortunes of life is Stig (the phrase "the blind leading the blind" springs to mind).

As I was reminiscing about the fridge palaver the other day, another buried memory surfaced. In 2002 we lived in Wrexham, where an earthquake struck. Wrexham was not the epicentre but nevertheless the effects were felt in Hayes House, and indeed across most of North Wales. It was late at night and the girls were in bed (this was pre Charlie and Sam era). Stig and I were laying on adjacent sofa's watching crap telly because we couldn't be bothered to get up and go to bed.

When the earthquake struck there was an eerie rumble and the sofas seemed to gyrate towards each other. It was quite startling and for a moment I was reluctant to put my feet down on the floor because a second ago it had looked like a sea of carpety fluid.

Stig, on the other hand, approached the whole thing from a more practical standpoint.

"The chimney!" He said

I gave him my what-the-hell-are-you-on-about? look.

"That chimney isn't stable".

Our house was a big red brick building and the wonky old chimney towered high above the roof. Stig went on to explain that the chimney could have been destabilised during the quake and that if it came down, it would crash through the roof and kill us in our beds. In fact the whole house could be unstable.

Fair enough, I could see his point about the chimney, it did look like it had been built by a drunk person. Stig went outside to look at it (in the dark) and concluded that it was more "rickety looking" than before, and that the only safe thing to do was evacuate the house.

Ah, that familiar sinking feeling. We woke the girls and bundled them, along with copious amounts of bedding and baby supplies (Nicki was only about a year old), into the car. As I glanced round from my front passenger seat and saw two pairs of wide eyes looking back at me from over the top of a large pile of duvets, I wasn't even surprised at the ridiculousness of the situation. This was typical Hayes House.

"Now what?" I asked Stig, who was deep in thought, complete with muttering.

"We need to go somewhere flat" he decided.

Was this decision based on years of earthquake training on the San Andreas fault, I wondered? Maybe in a prior life he was a secret government agent and encountered many situations like this?

Any such notions were soon dispelled however, when he drove to Tescos.

As he stopped the car in the middle of the vast car park, I felt a pang of incredulity at how impossible it was to find a space here when the shop was open. Again I asked the "Now what?" question, this time by glaring at him because saying the words out loud would have inevitably been followed by a huffy torrent of abuse on my part.

"Phone the police" He said.


Well you never know, Wrexham police may well have a resident geologist, but I doubted it. So, humouring him, I phoned the police, who in turn humoured me and confirmed that Yes; there had been an earthquake, and No; they didn't know if we could expect any aftershocks, nor could they comment on the structural integrity of our house, but given that the only reported damage was the odd broken roof tile, and the fact that our one-hundred-year-old house was still in standing, they thought that it was probably safe to return to it.

We drove home, too tired to be embarrassed. Only as we pulled up outside our house did it occur to us to check that our neighbour was OK as she had a baby son the same age as Nicki. A sleepy voice answered the phone and I explained that we were just checking that they were alright after the earthquake.

I had forgotten, in the midst of our "crisis", that my neighbour had lived in LA for ten years and earthquakes of this magnitude (piddly) were a regular occurrence there. She went on to say that the quake had woken her so she had got up to get a glass of water and seen us trudging out of the house complete with bedding and children but she figured, after the fridge incident, that we were just a tad weird.

Even our neighbour's (the only person we knew with ten years of earthquake experience) reassurance wasn't enough for Stig. We spent the rest of the night "camping" in the living room.

So if you want to be embarrassed in front of your neighbours, the local police, and spend an hour or two in Tesco's car park in the middle of the night; Stig is definitely your man in a crisis situation.


  1. I so love reading your blog. You have a raw talent there Clare. Your emotional literacy is fabulous. Look forward to more...and to seeing it published one day!

  2. Thank you Dom, I'll pay you later xx

  3. Tears of mirth.....

    Darn you, woman, I should have been folding laundry this afternoon!