A FEW hours ago, the cat stood up, marched to the centre of the room, put back its ears and stared in a very concerned fashion at something beside the footstool no one else could see. About 30 seconds later, the Billabong sloshed about, the roof rattled and the nice new fence banged loudly and several times against the cotoneaster.. The sensible thing seemed to be another sip, followed by some vigorous shaking on the sofa, which failed to reproduce the rumbling groundswell and established that it had indeed been an earthquake rather than a mini-stroke.
This was both good news and somewhat disappointing. Years ago, laid up and very crook indeed, a kind friend dropped off a parcel of books, one of them Aztec by Gary Jennings. It is the sort of book you can just manage when dinner hasn't stayed down for weeks and there is only enough wit left to wish someone kind would come along and change your sheets -- a ripping yarn, in other words, but educational as well.One learns, for example, that the conqistadores made short work of so many unpronouncable cities because their inhabitants could go no more than a few pages without a root. Earthquakes, according to Jennings, have an aphrodisial quality, which always seemed one Gaia's decencies and quite enough to justify a bit of fallen masonry here and there.
Well Melbourne has just had a 5.3 earthquake, which was very large and very noticeable, and it is now just as clear that Jennings was making stuff up. The science is settled: Unless Bunyip physiolology differs markedly from that of the ancient Aztecs, it can now be stated that earthquakes do nothing to inspire a desire to make the earth move for anyone else.
The cat cut a couple of agitated circles on the rug, licked its face and then went back to sleep at the hearth. Apparently it doesn't work for cats either..