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Six in the City – 3 March 2008

Whatever happened to Britons maintaining a stiff upper lip, asks a shaky Christine Toner

While tucked up in bed on Tuesday night, like many others across the UK I was surprised to feel the room shake.

Assuming this was simply the ongoing effect of my hangover from hell following a karaoke night with BM Solutions, I turned over and went back to sleep, vowing I would learn how to say ‘no more for me thanks, I’m already tipsy’.

When I woke up I was flabbergasted to learn that the country had been rocked by an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale.

But what amazed me more than an earthquake in Lincolnshire was the way people reacted.

Although there were few injuries and relatively little damage, hordes of people were queuing up to tell Sky News about their ordeals.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” said one scaredy cat. “It was the most frightening night of my life.”

“We were all screaming and crying,” said another. “I didn’t know what was happening.”

Now either I’m made of sterner stuff than the rest of the nation or some members of the public got a little carried away.

And it’s not just those that felt the tremor who were affected by the melodrama.

The Association of British Insurers predicts that the cost of the damage to property caused by the quake is likely to be over £10m.

But the footage I’ve seen shows little more than a few loose bricks and the odd collapsed wall. It’s hardly the San Andreas Fault. How do Californians cope?

But this is the British way, isn’t it? A light sleet shower is enough to cause the railway network to shut down for several weeks.

London Underground doesn’t run when it’s too hot and the roads close when it’s too cold.

And an inch of snow and we all board ourselves up at home and prepare for the Apocalypse.

Unless the weather is temperate with just enough rain and not too much wind, the UK packs up and insurers start paying out. Whatever happened to maintaining a stiff upper lip?

So I have two pieces of advice for my fellow Britons. First, let’s keep a cool head in these situations and show the world we can handle anything. And second, never attempt to sing the Grease megamix after too many cocktails.

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