According to an expert in the Geology Departments of the Flat Earth University, (me) one is less likely to be the victim of an earthquake in Ireland than almost anywhere else on earth. That said however, I was once the victim of an earthquake in Cork. It was on 19th July 1984, and on this day in 1984 my “Change of Address” article was published in The Irish Press. This is it: (the tempora and mores have changed since then and there are many local and contemporary references, so I have edited the original piece slightly.)
I’ve just bought my very first house. It is on The Banks (the Trustee Savings Banks) and it is the most beautiful house in the world. Because I only bought it for the cracks, I keep thinking it’s going to fall down.
The first day I spent in the Teach Nua there was an earthquake, but I had prayed very hard the night before to Nano Nagle to protect it, and the earthquake avoided Cork. (I was making breakfast and a mug – with my name on it – wobbled off the draining board and smashed on the tiled floor. It seemed like an inauspicious omen, but nonetheless, it turned out to be a very happy home and when it sold 23 years later, the house made 30 times what I had paid for for it. The family who bought it have filled the house with children and are very good neighbors to our friends locally, and when, in 2009, with rain, a high tide and wind blowing the sea up the harbour mouth and into the city, the Electricity Board opening the dam up river and releasing a tsunami, the water came just to the front step of the house, and no further. The new owners had moved all their valuables upstairs…..but were saved. Good karma. (http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2007/0317/features/southern-comfort-down-by-the-riverside-27991.html )
But Nano Nagle is all very well for the spiritual, one must also have a bit of worldly protection, so I checked my insurance policy and sure enough, I had been covered against earthquakes since the day before. How’s that for a bit of forward thinking? The Baden Powells would be proud of me.
I very nearly wasn’t covered at all, as the firm’s computer kept losing me as it couldn’t cope with a double-barrelled name and the insurance company kept sending my policy to a firm of coal importers. What with cracks and earthquakes and being located in the Marsh area of the city, I was glad to see that I was also covered for subsidence, but being addled and excited, I told a friend I had “subsistence insurance. ” He said he knew I was poor, but that was ridiculous!
It is amazing the things one learns when one buys a house, like the proper heights for sockets (3ft off the ground) what is a Phillips screwdriver and that seagulls get up very late. The University sports grounds is just across from my bedroom window. (In the centre of the All Weather track is where Yuri threw his hammer and broke four World Records.) (I’ve just checked this, and the event is actually up on YouTube, though because of the angle from which the action is shot, my house can’t be seen.
The seagulls of Cork, having (like me) an eye for a good location, like to roost just there. I got up early after my first night in the new house, to view the world from the privacy of my own home, and they were fast asleep. (It must have been before 5.56am because that is when the 5.4 earthquake rumbled under the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd, North West Wales.) The following morning I got up a bit later, but the birds were still asleep and the next morning at 10.30 they were still there, snoring their little herring gull snores. So if you happen to hear a loud chorus of “The Boys of Killybegs” wafting over the Lee of a morning, you will know it is 8 o’clock and it’s just me getting the seagulls up.
I would be carrying on a long-standing family tradition, for in my youth, my mother would come storming into my bedroom at 8 a.m, throw back the curtains and hiss “thousands of pounds spent on your education, it is half past nine and you are still in bed….” The curtain opening ceremony would be accompanied by a vicious onslaught with the vacuum cleaner and the radio turned to something devastatingly boring, on high volume. I think I shall modify the call slightly for the seagulls; something like “thousands of pounds spent on your eradication and you are still on the ground.”
When house hunting one also learns a lot about auctioneers and estate agents (like that many of them in Cork aren’t the slightest bit interested in selling houses) and to pick one’s solicitor wisely. When my brother asked if I had a good solicitor, I replied my choice was made on the grounds that the lwayer was a woman, a feminist and anti-nuke. He asked if I was contemplating buying Greenham Common Airforce Base.
But you know the way lawyers are always writing letters and then must await a reply – and a Bank Holiday always intervenes – and then writing more letters which begin “In reply to yours of the 21st inst”? well, from the other side of a desk of papers for signing, my solicitor says “hang on a minute and I’ll phone and find out…” She lifts the telephone: “Hello?…Crosby,Stills, Nash and Young?…this is Anne….” It gets things moving.
Another thing I learned about buying a house (from novelist Jilly Cooper’s husband) and unfortunately did not heed, was that one should always put one’s knickers in black plastic bags so they won’t be seen by the removals men. My removals men were all B.Es (Black Economy: a horticulturalist, the Road Manager with the National Ballet Company and the brother-in-law.)
I took the drawers out of the car in an open drawer and they promptly fell on the pavement outside the new house. Just then the brother-in-law arrived, and arms full of empty drawers, I wailed that my knickers were on the ground. He promptly looked behind me, thinking maybe they weren’t making elastic the way they used to do….
So that’s it. We’re in. Do drop in if you happen to be passing, we have a huge stock of new and completely re-built pianos, we are open until six on Saturdays, and remember: if you feel like singing….do sing an Irish song.”