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Column: Ashes to Ashes18 April 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Anold Jansen op de Haar
‘Are you also devastated about the tropical fruit salad?’
‘The tropical fruit salad?’
‘Yes, the one that is flown in three times a week from Ghana.’
‘Ah, it just reminded me of John Cleese.’
A hundred years ago a volcanic eruption on Iceland would only merit a small notice in the newspaper. Maybe you shouted: ‘Father, just look, isn’t this a magnificent red sunset!’ Father would have explained that this phenomenon was caused by an accumulation of a lot of small particles high up in the atmosphere. But that would be the end of it.
Last Wednesday, Iceland lit a gigantic cigar and now our tropical fruit salad is in mortal danger.
John Cleese was in Oslo to perform his one man show, ‘Paying My Ex-Wife, Year Two’, in order to clear the debts caused by his third divorce, only to then spend 5,100 dollars on a taxi to take him to Eurostar in Brussels, which enabled him to travel on to London. I assume another marriage is totally out of the question.
God has one decent cough and the whole of Northern Europe is grounded.
The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London was entirely unknown to me but, even so, it does exist. Now this made me imagine that just once every century their phone rings:
‘This is the VAAC.’
‘This is Ms Guðmundsdóttir.’
‘Sorry, who, did you say?’
‘It’s Björk, I just wanted to alert you that a small cloud of dust is on its way to you.’
‘How in heaven’s name do we pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano?’ is the agitated response of the VAAC, promptly followed by: ‘What the hell, our fruit salad!’
Even the internet is harassed by the plume of ash. Several punters called for Al Gore to be thrown into the crater: ‘obviously the weather will cool down now.’ Doom scenarios from 1816 are dusted off: ‘It was the year without a summer’; a result of the eruption of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia during 1815.
As fate would have it, it was the country where the coveted trophy ‘The Ashes’ was invented that was the hardest hit. If I were the director of the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord’s, I would order a larger urn in anticipation.
It is a fact that modern society is no longer well-prepared to cope with major natural disasters. One really bad volcano eruption and we have to put on fur lined boots and ear warmers in July. Apart from this, the Earth is now so densely populated that any disruption gets magnified.
Last year a German boy, Gerrit Blank, aged 14, was hit by a falling meteorite, which was only the size of a pea; it hit his hand. The stone from outer space was travelling at a velocity of almost 50,000 kilometres an hour. The chance of this happening is one in a million, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Yet on the 30th of June 1908, an enormous explosion happened in Toengoeska, Siberia. A meteorite exploded 8 kilometres above the earth. An area the size of 45 square kilometres was completely destroyed.
Fortunately there were no human victims, apart from an old farmer who kept reindeers and who lived about 30 kilometres away from the affected area. The force of the explosion propelled him some 12 meters into the air only to land into a tree. He later died of his injuries.
Now we are up in arms because of a rather modest eruption on Iceland. God can do humour.
The UK recently had ‘the big event’; the leaders of the three major parties met each other in debate. Or rather, a case of who wins the prize for being the least offending. And the winner is: Nick Clegg. Oh dear, but in The Netherlands we are in a much more serious pickle with our party leaders. Immediately after the debate the parties’ spin doctors were at hand to prop up their leaders. Ah, all three of them would have done much better.
What is the matter with the Western world? Does anyone have a clue how to deal with the financial crisis, global warming, Afghanistan, car hugging (one of the things that annoys Dutch drivers most when venturing out on their terminally congested roads), and any general ideals? If I were a volcano on Iceland I would spring into action immediately.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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