I had already been up and on the move unexpectedly.  I had shifted from one bedroom to another to escape the ear splitting unwelcome noises coming from the bed monster occupying the right hand side who wouldnt shut up no matter how many prods and pokes were implemented.

It was clear that the combo of snorts, snuffles and wheezes were not going to stop any time soon and instead were creating enough hullabaloo to eventually force me on my toes and into another place to rest my weary head.

No sooner than I had literally fallen into the most splendid period of shut eye, it felt as though someone had placed a huge powerful industrial torch in my face and was flashing its full beam on and off.

This series of annoyingly bright lights were then accompanied by a series of loud booms. 

I had been woken up in the wee small hours by some seriously loud storm along with the most impressive, if not scary display that continued to sporadically light up the sky chaperoned by rumbling like an orchestra of kettle drums!

Never one to run to the windows to get a front seat to try and catch the lightning, I cautiously admired it from a safe distance knowing I could slide under the duvet to make it disappear as and when required. 

Desperately using my dependable counting technique of ‘one elephant two elephants’ etc to determine how many miles away the lightning happened to be. I did not feel particularly brave in the knowledge it seemed to be directly above which was much too close for comfort!

It was no good - I was now wide awake! 

However not in a good way, I felt twitchy and not at peace with the world as the noisy flashing argument continued between thunder and lightning causing me to pop the kettle on and start cleaning the house at some ungodly time- it was 3am - was I going mad?

It never used to bother me but perhaps as I have aged I have developed brontophobia a fear of thunder or maybe and more likely astraphobia a fear of thunder and lightning which symptoms can seem heightened when you are alone. 

Alone was exactly what I was! First cast out of my own bed and now as I tidied the house!

But I will have you know that astraphobia is the third most common phobia behind acrophobia (fear of heights) and zoophobia (fear of animals).   

What to do? 

There was nothing for it but to wake the bed monster and share fears whilst closing the blinds in an attempt to call time on this dramatic sky display and help block out the ongoing sounds of the storm. 

Needless to say the bed monster was not at all receptive to be woken up.  However on the even brighter than lightning side of bright at least the noise pollution in the house had successfully subsided as the battle continued outside!

Thunder and lightning are some of the most dramatic weather phenomena caused through the formation of cumulonimbus clouds and usually last no more than half an hour. It’s amazing what you can do in half an hour wide awake feeling disturbed and quite maniac!

Thunderstorms are common occurrences on earth and it is estimated lightning strike hits somewhere on the earth's surface approximately 44 times every second, a total of nearly 1.4 billion lightning strikes every year.

They are a series of sudden electrical discharges resulting from atmospheric conditions resulting in sudden flashes of light and trembling sound waves.  However strictly speaking thunder doesn't make a sound.

Thunder IS the sound made by lightning.  It is literally the sound of the bolt of lightning ripping through the air at an incredible speed ionising the air, rapidly raising temperature, breaking the sound barrier and physically hitting the earth.

I know most storms are harmless, even soothing to some, and nurturing to plants and wildlife and that thunder can’t hurt us whereas lightning strikes can be deadly! 

One of the reasons why I am very glad to be now reinstated and snuggled down sufficiently in bed listening to the birds sing realising I would rather listen to the sounds of the monster than the rumble of thunder any day!

Quite a striking set of facts relating to thunder and lightning!

  • The flashes because of a lightning strike travels at the speed of light (670,000,000 mph) whereas the actual lightning strike travels at a comparatively gentile 270,000 mph. This means it would take about 55 minutes to travel to the moon, or around 1.5 seconds to get from London to Bristol.
  • When lightning strikes sand or sandy soil, it fuses together the grains to create a small glass-like tube known as a fulgurite.
  • While the intensity of the lightning strike can make them appear as thick bolts across the sky, the actual width of a lightning bolt is only about 2-3 cm. The average length of a lightning bolt is about 2-3 miles.  So intense is the charge carried down this small channel, the temperature of the lightning reaches 30,000 °C - that's five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
  • Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is the place on earth that receives the most lightning strikes. Massive thunderstorms occur on 140-160 nights per year with an average of 28 lightning strikes per minute lasting up to 10 hours at a time.  That's as many as 40,000 lightning strikes in one night.
  • Recent research revealed that helicopters can cause an isolated lightning strike. While flying the helicopter acquires a negative charge, if it flies close to an area that is positively charged.
  • Trees can often be destroyed by lightning strikes. When the lightning hits a tree, it’s usually travels just below the tree's bark where there is a layer of sap and water. This layer becomes instantly heated, expands causing the bark to be blasted off the tree and sometimes splitting the wood.
  • Whilst nitrogen is in the air all around us, for plants to be able to absorb it (a process vital for their growth) they rely upon a process called Nitrogen fixation.  Whilst much of this is done by bacteria and algae, the extreme heat of a lightning strike causes nitrogen to bond with oxygen to create nitrogen oxides which combine with moisture in the air to fall as rain and water plants with nitrate rich water. So, whilst they may be frightening and often accompanied but heavy rain and lots of humidity, the old thunder storm is the gardener’s friend.  Sit back and enjoy them and think of all the money and work you are saving not having to fertilise your garden.  Mother nature is doing it for you.
  • A bolt of lightning lasts on average for about one 10,000th of a second but could light a 100-Watt light bulb for three months
  • Thunderstorms can trigger asthma
  • The most thundery place on Earth is said to be Tororo, Uganda, where it thunders 251 days a year followed closely by Java with 220 days of thunderstorms every year.
  • Lightning-strike victims develop a strange rash and people who are struck by lightning are often temporarily covered with what's known as red Lichtenberg figures, which are branching, tree-like patterns created by the passage of high voltage electrical discharges along the skin.
  • The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are a tiny 1 in 12,000 but beware: Scientists say climate change may increase the chances to about 1 in 8,000 by year 2100.


And finally, ...

Until the late 18th century it was believed that ringing church bells repelled lightning, many church bells bore the inscription fulgura frango, meaning 'I chase lightning'.  During a thunderstorm, bell ringers would run to the bell tower to ring the bells -  a high tower with a metal bell was in fact about the worst place to be.

Between 1753 and 1786 in France, a total of 103 bell-ringers were struck by lightning and killed, resulting in the custom being banned.