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Did the earth move for you?

How did you react to the local council election results last Friday? Here is one earth-shattering tale from PETER FROST

I CAN never resist staying awake on election nights, and so it was last Thursday. I went to bed but left the TV on playing the BBC election results programme.

It didn’t take long to realise that the predictions that Labour would do well and Idiot Johnson and his mates would get a bloody nose were going to come true.

I drifted off, in and out of sleep, but some complicated internal mechanism woke me for actual results.

It was clear that the Tories were losing dramatically. The statisticians were calculating what would finally amount to the Tories losing almost 500 seats and control of 11 local councils. Hooray!

I particularly enjoyed the news that Labour were winning long-term traditional Tory councils like Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet. Even better was the stream of Tory MPs and ministers being interviewed and blaming it all on the buffoon and liar PM Johnson.

With not much sleep I had a bit of a lie-in and finally sat down for breakfast at about 11 o’clock. My wife Ann and I were discussing the results over my usual cappuccino when a most remarkable thing happened. The earth moved!

Now I’ve been involved in politics, in local elections for over 60 years. I’ve seen Labour win, I’ve seen Labour lose. I’ve laughed and I have wept but I’ve never actually felt the earth move. But last Friday morning it actually did.

It was really great to see Labour do so well but was it really that much better than earlier Labour victories to warrant an earth-moving experience?

Being a bit of a journalist, I knew I needed to check this out. Amazingly, it was true.

The British Geological Survey has confirmed an earthquake had hit Northamptonshire at 11.31am. It confirmed that a 2.3 magnitude quake had its epicentre 6km below Corby.

From all over Northamptonshire witnesses reported on “loud rumbles and rattles.” No actual damage seemed to have been reported.

Earthquakes are probably not as uncommon as you might think here in Britain.

As of February 2022 — the last month of published figures — there have been 25 earthquakes detected in the UK. The first one for 2022 was detected in Lincolnshire just two days after New Year’s Day.

British earthquakes usually range between 0.3 and 3.6 magnitude although they can sometimes be greater. Our Northamptonshire quake had a magnitude of just 1.1, and earthquakes with a magnitude below 2.5 often go unnoticed by the general public. However, if the magnitude reaches beyond 3, a terrifying shake can be felt.

This February Birmingham was shaken by a 3.2 magnitude earthquake.

Many years ago I was in Tiblisi, Georgia, in what was then the Soviet Union. I slept through a really strong and disruptive earthquake.

My deep sleep might have had something to do with all those fraternal toasts that we drank at the many brandy distilleries I had visited during the day.

When I emerged in the morning, Tiblisi looked like a bomb had hit it with many buildings damaged and a few completely destroyed. I’m just thankful I slept through the quake.

Most of Britain’s earthquakes are small and hardly felt. Each year, Brits feel between 20 to 30 earthquakes, with hundreds of smaller ones recorded by sensitive instruments.

Britain experiences a magnitude five, which can damage buildings, roughly every 10-20 years.

In 2008, a 5.2 quake shook Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, with tremors felt across Britain and as far as the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

In 2015, a quake measuring 4.2 hit Sandwich in Kent, with shockwaves felt as far away as Norwich 100 miles away.

A 4.4 magnitude quake near Swansea, Wales, caused one cottage to collapse completely in February 2018. Tremors were felt as far away as London, Cornwall and Liverpool as millions of terrified people experienced their homes and ground shaking.

There have been many more right up until today.

The strongest earthquake to ever hit the UK occurred in the North Sea near the Dogger Bank in 1931, with a magnitude of 6.1. It was 60 miles offshore, but still powerful enough to cause minor damage to buildings on the east coast of England.

The most damaging UK earthquake was in the Colchester area in 1884. Several people were killed and shockwaves were felt as far away as the Houses of Parliament.

Other notable events include the 5.4-magnitude the quake at Lleyn, Wales in 1984. It was the largest onshore earthquake ever recorded in the UK and had hundreds of aftershocks.

Finally, I can’t move on from last week without recording some sad news. My good friend and comrade John Andrews finally lost his battle with cancer in the week of the local elections.

John was an enthusiastic Morning Star reader and occasional contributor.

He was a full-time trade union official and a good socialist who has helped me with occasional Ramblings columns. He always humbly described himself as a proud dad, trade unionist and socialist Scouser.

Sadly John was diagnosed with incurable and inoperable stage four bowel cancer in August 2019. He showed both his politics and his Scouse humour by naming his biggest tumour “Boris.”

John and we, his mates, all wore T-shirts and badges demanding “Boris must go.”

John’s wife Keren has been his greatest support but not far behind is his son William. William is, at present, taking the exams needed to get him a place at university reading politics. (“What else?” He told me.)

Regular Ramblings readers may remember William, who I wrote about a few years ago.  I told readers that William, like me, was a militant atheist.

In his first year at secondary school, his vigorous arguing skills — got from his dad, no doubt — won him a place in the school’s debating team.

The team won a place in the regional debating competition final. William was somewhat horrified to discover the random subject he drew in the final was to “prove the existence of God.”

He was disgusted but made the best fist he could of it. His argument proved magnificent and, somewhat to his embarrassment, he and his team won the competition.

After the prize-giving he was approached by one of the judges who congratulated him on “the best argument for the existence of God I have ever heard.”

William was quick to tell the man that he didn’t believe a word of his speech, proclaiming himself a militant atheist.

The man looked a little shocked, but before he walked away William asked who he was and why he was so interested.

“Actually,” said the appreciative judge, “I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Over the last few years, John’s wife Keren and son William helped John through much chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is their love, support and care that kept John smiling through some really hard times.

Regular readers of my Ramblings may remember my reporting on John abseiling down Northampton’s famous 127-metre-high Lift Tower.

This is the tallest permanent abseiling tower in the world. It was just part of John’s campaign that raised over £15,000 for the charity Bowel Cancer UK.

John also did much to promote the need for us all to watch out for the early symptoms of bowel, and indeed other, cancers. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second-biggest cancer killer.

More than nine out of 10 new cases are in people over the age of 50, and six out of 10 cases in people aged 70 or over.

John Andrews’ life has always been dedicated to supporting progressive and worthwhile causes and he carried on doing that until the day he died just last week.

That is why I am dedicating today’s Ramblings to John and passing my love and sympathies on to John’s wife Keren and son William. 

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