Sunday, April 18, 2010


Unless you live on Mars, and even then, you can't have missed seeing this intriguingly complicated word all over the news in the past few days. Apparently its correct pronunciation is something like AYA FYATIA JO KUTLL but I prefer looking at the word and trying out the many ways it could be enunciated. You can see some videos of the actual sound and fury behind that name hereWhat I find both hypnotically fascinating and frightening is the way the volcano is slowly pushing a thick, smelly amorphous body out of its crater, shooting lethal glassy particles of shattered rock high up into the stratosphere like some gigantic cosmic fart. 

It's been sunny over here in the past few days, but there's a gritty greyish cast over the blue sky, as if it was overlaid with one of those finely dotted screens used in printing half-tone reproductions. I may be chicken but I'm reluctant to go out at all - I'd rather be chicken than having my lungs coated in Eyjafjallajökull's sinister effluvia, even though the experts are saying 'Don't Worry' as usual. 

The reason for my latest absence from blogging has not been The Ash Cloud but the very welcome presence of my 11 year-old grand-nephew who stayed with me for the past week while his father attended a medical congress in London. But The Cloud did seriously affect their departure back to Rome, with all flights cancelled and every other method of transport fully booked. They managed to catch the Eurostar to Paris, stayed overnight, then found that the current French rail strike, plus the vast number of people whose flights were cancelled meant that it was impossible to buy tickets. Someone advised them to get on a train to Milan without tickets and just hope for the best. That's what they did, along with hundreds of other people who had the same idea, fighting to climb on board. They sat on their luggage in an airless corridor, carriages bursting with exhausted and irritable passengers, stayed overnight in Milan then got another train to Rome, and home at last. No doubt their odyssey was easier than that of innumerable people with far more complicated journeys.

Makes you think about how easily all our habits and certainties can be overturned in the blink of an eye, not only with man-made disasters such as war, but with nature's own unpredictable, and predictable, mischief. 

Okay, this is not realistic. I tried to give the ash cloud a sort of intestinal look. I drew it with an amazing online sketching app called Harmony that the brilliant Walt, alias Crackskull Bob, has been brilliantly playing with. Beware! You'll be tempted to spend hours, days, weeks, months, fooling around with the options this clever software gives you.


alembic said...

Harmony is fun... I just spent a considerable chunk of time playing with it! :)

Rain said...

Having had Mt. St. Helens erupt in the PNW, we were lucky the ash didn't come down toward Portland the Willamette Valley but it did really foul up people who lived the other side of the Cascades. The whole story of what has been happening this time is amazing. Makes me wonder about 2012 which I tend to put down as being important but this kind of eruption reminds us how little real control we have over earth.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Maria, you won't be able to resist going back to play with it again... and again! Whoever invented this system must be a genius.

Rain, it certainly is humbling, as well as scary, to have such proof that for all our technology and sophistication, we're completely helpless in front of nature's power.