I was awoken with a jolt in the wee small hours; not by the earthquake, but by my wife whispering, “There’s been an earthquake!” Somehow I managed to sleep through a magnitude 5.2 seismic shock (albeit one that’s power must have dissipated markedly by the time it reached us, considering our distance from the epicentre) but not through my beloved’s gentle prodding. What that tells you about my survival instinct I don’t know; interesting that a geological incident won’t shift me (suggesting that I care not for my personal safety) but when my wife merely turns to me (and I perhaps imagine an alternative motive for her action requiring me to fulfil some primal duty to perpetuate the species) I’m up like a shot, so to speak.
At the time of course we had no idea how localised the quake was, and so once downstairs with the kids a (depressingly) few hours later I checked the internet to see if there had been word. My home page showed a link to an article in The Guardian, and so I had a quick read.
Large areas of England from London to Manchester suffered tremors just before 1am last night as an earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale rumbled through the country for several seconds.
There were reports of power cuts in some cities and of buildings shaking – in Hull students ran into the street for fear of falling masonry – but no reports of injuries.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at 12.56am at a depth of 10km (6.2 miles) with an epicentre 205 km (127 miles) north of London and 30 miles south of Kingston upon Hull.
“What-what-what-what-what”, as Dannan O’Mallard would doubtless say. Do we really need to know that the epicentre was 127 miles north of London? Should it be the first geographical reference point we are presented with concerning an incident in Lincolnshire? Is it so impossible to describe anything without relating it in some way to the capital? Good – and indeed – grief. I can see why Reuters or the foreign press might mention London in passing, dealing as they are with an international readership, but does a British paper need to do the same? Perhaps, for a metropolitan audience, the sad answer is “yes, it does.”
Sorry, then, if I come across as a chippy northerner, because I really don’t mean to. Perhaps it is because I am a chippy northerner – it’s as good a reason as any – or perhaps it is a temporary effect caused by me currently reading Stuart Maconie’s rather splendid Pies And Prejudice. I don’t know the answer just yet; ask me again in a week.