Fire, Ash and Exhaustion . . .

Barnwood_park_3 Arrived home from The Smoke in the early evening yesterday.  How lucky to live just a few hundred yards from this beautiful small park.  It is one of our favourite haunts and a lovely walk through trees to get there, especially at this time of year.  This tranquil oasis of Nature’s beauty is such a contrast to the busy streets of London, but each have their place.

I spent yesterday afternoon looking in the Victoria & Albert Museum and then the Natural History Museum.  Didn’t realise the science behind volcanic eruptions could be so interesting.  I’ve experienced the effects of that science, having been on Mount Etna as it erupted a few years ago.  Yes, it’s true!  What an amazing experience that was . . .

Etna_day We were in Malta when the eruption took place, looking around places where I (and, surprisingly, my husband!) had lived as a teenager.  Realising Sicily was just a couple of hours away by hovercraft, we decided to witness the eruption at first hand.  I remember the excitement (and pain, I don’t do mornings!) of rising at 4.00am to catch the early morning hovercraft to the island.  When we docked, even though we were two hours’ drive from Mount Etna, the grumbling of the earth could be heard, like Nature’s ‘ghetto blaster’ and the plume of smoke visible for miles.  It was an amazing feeling as we travelled nearer the vomiting peak.  Ash hung in the air and still the rumbling and grumbling of the earth carried on beneath our feet and the sound was all around the island, a sound so deep and inescapable it is difficult to describe.  The scene from the lower slopes of Etna was truly breathtaking.  I stood in disbelief and child-like wonder witnessing this statement by Mother Earth.  She was not happy.  The path of the lava was clearly visible into the village below but, thankfully, nobody had been injured. 

Etna_lava_2 The children collected so many pieces of lava to take back to England that our carrier bags were straining at the seams, not to mention heavy!  (Made mental note that some might have to ‘disappear’ if our luggage was overweight.  Although it was special, resolved not to pay excess baggage payments for it!)  Reluctantly, we left Etna’s slopes and went to explore the historic ruins at the opposite end of the island, where Mother Earth could still be loudly heard belching her displeasure.

After a long day, we returned to the hovercraft for a late trip home, absolutely shattered.  The adrenalin rush had subsided and been replaced by exhaustion but it had been worth every waking moment to witness at first hand this truly amazing spectacle.  But the best was yet to come.  As we flew home from Malta a Aerial_etna_3 couple of days later, the Captain announced that we were about to fly over the erupting crater of Mount Etna.  It was dark and the brilliant orange and red fire was still raging below us.  Firework Night holds no magic for me any more, having seen the display to top all pyrotechnic parties.   I was and forever remain in awe of Mother Nature.  Anger her at our communal peril.

The children returned to school lugging huge bags of volcanic lava (full load as no excess baggage charges applied by trusty airport staff) from the very slopes which were still being featured in the News.  One especially good piece has pride of place in the glass specimen case in the Science Lab.

The remainder is still in carrier bags now buried deep within the rubble at the base of the children’s wardrobes.  For them Life has since presented many new happenings and challenges, with magic moments a-plenty still to come, I’m sure.  But for me, this still remains one of the most amazing sensory experiences imaginable.  Remind me to tell you about driving across the Sahara Desert as the dawn broke – that came a pretty close second!

Oh well, better get on with the ironing . . .

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