My first memory of thunder is of an afternoon in the living room with my mother and her friend. Mum and Dad rented the top half of a terraced Edwardian house. When I heard the deep rumbling I thought the house was going to fall down. Being told it was thunder meant nothing, but the obvious fact that the house didn’t fall down and the calm reaction of the grown ups allayed my fears. But how to explain to young children what is happening when most adults find it hard to grasp the science?
Last night the south of England was treated to thunder and lightning of epic proportions; in these modern days of forecasting we were expecting storms, but the early evening display seemed disappointing and only enough rain to water the garden. But by midnight thunder had returned with a vengeance. Our chalet roof slopes over the bed, only camping out would bring one closer to nature and I love hearing the rain pounding on the roof. Satisfied that my empty water butts would be filled and the garden happy I did drop off to sleep, but within half an hour I was awake again.
I had dreamed lightning was going through my hands to my fingertips; maybe it wasn’t a dream! Lying there, the thunder was so loud, the lightning so frequent I began to wonder if perhaps this really was a timely warning from angry gods, a reminder we can’t control nature. How frightened our ancestors must have been with no understanding of electricity; Thor at his angriest. How bright and vicious the bolts of lightning in the utter darkness before tamed gas and electricity. To add to the terror, we know lightning does not stay safely high up in the sky, it can strike your home or strike you down dead.
We decided to go down to our tiny conservatory and watch through the glass roof. I tried filming on my phone and at 2am enthusiastically posted a ‘can’t sleep’ video on Facebook for Australian friends to enjoy. One minute 32 seconds of darkness and pattering of rain with a brief flash that lit up the glass ceiling; it did not convey the drama of the night.
This morning Facebook was filled with shocking images, revealing that many photographers had not gone to bed at all. From Somerset round to the Isle of Thanet, Glastonbury Tor to Margate Harbour, on cliffs and rural hillsides hours of patience and the ability to take infinite number of digital photos, resulted in beautiful pictures even an artist could not imagine. Local television news showed viewers’ pictures, no need for their own reporters to go out these days.
And still I don’t really understand where all that crackling electrical energy comes from and where it goes to when the skies are blue and calm. No modern scientist would dare to suggest it was Thor and other ancient gods and no politician is going to listen to their warning…