WEEK 28: Is That You, Mother Earth?

WEEK 28: Is That You, Mother Earth?


I’ve never noticed it before. Perhaps karate is waking up parts of my brain that have remained dormant for decades. When I work from home, I often have the door to the garden open and recently I’ve started to hear a regular low-frequency rumble that lasts for 5-10 seconds.

My first thought was that it was the sound of aircraft from Heathrow being carried on the wind but as the world’s second busiest airport is 20 miles away from me across London, this would be practically impossible.

So concerned was I by one of the rumblings that I sent a message to my work colleague who lives nearby to ask if he’d felt a possible earth tremor. He replied, “Nope.” Hmm… was I going mad? Could it be the Edmonton Incinerator a few miles to the east, which burns rubbish to make electricity? Perhaps it was a local heavy construction site or the sound of the Earth shaking from all that city movement.

I’ve the smallest ears in the South East and as a result can easily hear bats. Was this another example of my superhero aural powers? I googled “rumble” “unexplained” and “London” and the result was incredible. “The Hum”. But let’s come back to this.

It was a karate twice-weeker and the Middlesex Shotokan core squeezed into the senseis’ home gym for our now regular extra training session.  The walk there was in brilliant glowing sunset, but there was no sign of the now famous Winchmore Hill owl – had it shifted back to the countryside? – and thankfully no Hum.

Unbeknownst to us karateka we were to be given a rollicking fitness going-over. The horses, as they say, were not spared. We must have done more than 50 press-ups while there was great emphasis on the plank. You know what the plank is, don’t you? It’s where you lift your body parallel to the ground using your elbows and toes to remain in a solid position.

The world record for the plank is nine hours, 30 minutes and one second, set in 2021 by Daniel Scali in Adelaide, Australia. In our own plank competition in karate we were never going to trouble the Aussie fitness master, but I was proud to beat a field of kids by holding my position for four minutes – a whole one minute more than anyone else could manage. Small victories and all that, but this was the second-toughest karate workout in six months. I couldn’t move without discomfort for days afterwards.

By the time of the main meet-up in our Green Lanes church hall my ribcage was still suffering from my over-planking. Mrs Gale, who also runs a blog from this very website, couldn’t understand why I had to beat a gang of schoolboys so convincingly. Maybe The Hum is getting to me!

I’d taken a few days off work and spent many an hour studying Shotokankataman on YouTube and then practising the moves aided and abetted by my print-up of a diagram that I’d nabbed from the internet showing details of blocks, kicks and whatavya. I felt pretty confident that I’d nailed it in my living room but the intricacies of heian nidan hadn’t been picked up by me. I was missing an arm sweep here and a “cup-and-saucer” hand arrangement there, so the best I can say is that I have the rudimentary elements of the next kata but, as always, still have some work to do.

What was of supreme good use was a bunkai of the whole of kata heian shodan – and I never expected I’d be using sentences like that six months ago. A bunkai is a demonstration of the practical uses of the kata chops, strikes and blocks. As was mentioned last week, I struggle with this – but a breakdown of each and every section of shodan laid out its practical application almost in Ladybird-book simplicity and all of a sudden I started to think that a yellow belt might be doable. We’re to be told when the next grading is next week.

On the way home from the dojo, walking by a sports ground with its perimeter of trees, I heard the twit-twoo of the Winchmore Hill owl. It’s obviously trying out a few local areas before permanently setting up home. I hope it sticks around. As for The Hum, it’s in the morning, from my conservatory, back door open. Apparently it’s a global phenomenon that is only heard by four per cent of people.

Some think it could be the sound of waves bashing against the continental shelf, others that it’s the effect of lightning creating electromagnetic charges due to constantly striking the ground around the world (eight million times a day!) or even the noise created by the jetstream scraping alongside slower moving air. Other reasons include background rumble of electricity powerlines, low-frequency radio messages to submarines from the mainland and movements in the tectonic plates… Or maybe I’m becoming a bit more at one with the natural world because of my karate journey and it’s the heartbeat of the planet. Oof, I like the sound of that!

No you’re right, it’s probably the nearby Edmonton Incinerator – Britain’s largest, which burns London’s unrecycled waste and turns it into electricity. Brrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm! Be seeing you!