Lightning and Me

Hooray hooray, it’s half term today. Let the joy be unconfined. The bad news is I am so exhausted every muscle aches, the good news is that over the last few weeks, I have been involved in a charity event that has raised almost three thousand pounds for Tommy’s, a charity that is really close to my heart since we lost James to stillbirth 18 years ago.

Work has been its usual enjoyable, maddening, tiring and all encompassing self so my novel has been sadly languishing in the background sending me reproachful glances. But now I have a whole week to get back into it – I am determined to get the third in my trilogy published in the spring this year.

To get my creative juices flowing, here’s a quick catch up. Dog is flourishing and looking very dashing after a recent groom. Husband and son spent the morning eating tomahawk steak and have now gone off to the gym to see which of them is going to deadlift 120 kg first. I have no idea where all this machoness has come from but husband looks great so I’m all for it. Daughter has disappeared off to spend the night with her friends so I am in the house, peaceful except for the sound of Dog yawning. Bliss.

Lightning is a strange topic, but I thought I’d share with you the strange events of last year when I learned rather more than I would have liked about what happens when lightning strikes.

I’ve always rather hated storms. I know some people find them exhilarating and fling back the windows to breath in the ionised air crying how alive they feel and isn’t nature wonderful? But I found them terrifying.

I grew up in the Middle East where in the twelve years I was there it rained twice, both times were biblical in their proportions and were accompanied by storms so terrible they ripped the roof off the school library. I learned from an early age not to trust them.

My husband is a scientist and I’ve found him very useful when I’ve had irrational terrors about things like storms and being hit by lightning. Once, in the heady days of pre-children, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Sicily. I couldn’t wait but hadn’t realised that a big part of our journey involved flying across a large stretch of mountains. This wasn’t great in terms of turbulence, and apparently, the area was also renowned for giant lightning storms.

Sure enough, after a bumpy ride had already set my stress levels soaring, I saw out of the window the ominous crackle of lightning zig-zagging through the clouds ahead. I completely fell apart, convinced we were going to get zapped by lightning and fall out of the sky to our doom. I hadn’t smoked for ten years but found myself desperate to dig out a Malboro light.

My husband, seeing my distress, spent the next twenty minutes explaining that the plane acted as a Faraday’s cage and there was nothing to worry about. He used a soft, droning, sciencey voice that contained within it the ring of absolute authority. I believed every word, my anxiety receded and we landed safely.

I subsequently discovered he was lying his head off and lightning could have easily struck an engine and sent the plane plummeting downwards. Thank goodness he didn’t tell me that until years later.

I didn’t know this, but if you go for a holiday on Lake Como you have amazing, gorgeous, stunning views, but the price you pay is storms constantly bounce around the mountains Every Single Day. My weather app was filled with images of lightning.

During the day it was fine, but towards the end of the afternoon you’d hear the ominous murmuring and booming of thunder and I would hare out of the swimming pool as if someone was chasing me with a knife. My entire family thought I was mad – I couldn’t understand why nobody else at the holiday complex wasn’t worried they were about to get fried alive in the pool by a lightning strike.

Then, recently, a very dear friend told me a horrifying story about how when she was living in a rented house in Broadstairs there was a terrible storm. She heard a strange noise and a ball of lightning exploded through the window. As she looked on in astonishment it ran along the walls towards the door, which she opened, and the ball of lightning disappeared through it.

She swears up and down this is the absolute truth, and it has haunted me ever since.

Last year we had an unpleasant few weeks when the Kent countryside seemed to be suffering more than its fair share of thunderstorms. I spent most of the night counting how many miles away the dreaded lightning was until I fell into an uneasy sleep haunted by dreams of balls of lightning running through the house setting everything on fire.

The next morning the birds were singing, the sky was blue, and the garden had that lovely freshly washed feel you get after a big storm. But all I could hear were the outraged, indignant tones of my children yelling – ‘why isn’t the wifi working?’

I went downstairs and the router was flashing pink. Also, the lights in the kitchen weren’t working. Odd. I thought, and went to check the fuse box. Maybe something had tripped?


Turns out the house had been struck by lightning!

Did you know that if there’s a storm you have to unplug your router? If you don’t you risk the bit that connects you to cyber space being blown up! The BT man who came round said he’d once had to sort out a connector thing that had been struck by lightning and brought down an entire village. Not one of them had access to wifi. If only they’d unplugged their routers. If only I had – because living with teenagers who’ve had to go off grid for four days was not pleasant, I can tell you.

My neighbour’s house had also been hit by lightning, but she’d been sensible and unplugged everything, so there was no damage. She was filming the storm when the house was struck and when she sent me the video I was torn between horror at the explosion of light and sound, and laughter at the stream of expletives issuing forth from my usually mild-mannered friend.

Sound up – don’t worry, I’ve cut out the swearing!

Unfortunately, Daughter is one of those people who feel alive and exhilarated by the power of storms, and when we had another storm in the afternoon two days later she and her friend decided to go out in it and thought it was hilarious when they filmed a tree breaking in half and crashing to the ground two feet in front of them. I only discovered this a week later when she posted it – accompanied by many laughing emojis – on her social media. Good grief!

The fallen, lightning struck, tree that nearly killed my foolish Daughter

So I’m going to be keeping a close eye on my weather app and staying indoors in future. But learn a lesson from me. If you hear the rumble of thunder – go and unplug your router!


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