Monday, 30 July 2007

And the rain came.

And the rain came. I watched the news whenever I could and my heart ached in sympathy for those that had lost their homes to the water, and in one case that I saw, a lady had lost her two cats and her grief made me cry.

Tewkesbury and Gloucester aren’t that far away from me and I watched as the water levels rose, from the safety of my own home. Jimmy had to go down to London on the Friday (20 July) and as I was going away the next day, I spent the afternoon doing my housework and getting packed. The sky was leaden grey and I lit the fire when I had finished and sat staring into the flames, hoping that Jimmy was ok. He’d left at 5.30am and I hadn’t heard from him for a while and I felt the butterflies in the base of my stomach that I always do when he is on the road. The flames curled around the logs and I just sat and stared, willing him to phone me.

The sharp ringing jolted through me and I leapt up for the phone and felt the relief coursing through me at his voice saying “Hello, honey. I’m on my way home but it will be late. Probably around 11pm – traffic is hell and so are the roads.” I always say the same thing – it’s a bit of a ritual with me: “Drive carefully, love, please. Watch out for the nutters and stay off your phone!” He’s got hands free but I still think you’re not concentrating if your yacking to someone, and he hates been alone on long journeys as he is such a chatty person, by nature.

I knew I wouldn’t settle properly until he came home, so had a bath and put my dressing gown on. Dinner was an “open the fridge door and gaze inside” kind of affair, as I’d meant to be going to see Jess in her school play and having dinner at mum’s. The weather had seen the play cancelled and I didn’t fancy the fifteen minute journey in torrential downpours and mum had said to stay at home and keep safe. Little did I know how good that advice would be.

There was no letting up in the rain, and I could hear it running through the drain from the guttering into the soak-away at the front, praying that it could take that volume of water. We’re lucky that our cottage is on the brow of a hill and raised up from the lane. I stood at the bedroom window and watched the river of water flowing down the lane and knowing exactly where it would pool into a reservoir at the bottom. Time ticked on slowly and 11pm came and went. There was no way I could go to bed until he was in. I drank more tea and fed another log to the fire.

Quarter past midnight and he rang. He’d started off on the M4 (he usually gets off at Swindon and drives the rest of the way on the A419/417) but the traffic had come to a standstill. He’d found out there’d been a land-slide and managed to get off and go on the M40 to Oxford. More grid-lock. He’d grabbed a kebab (don’t go there!!) and then got on the A40 towards Cheltenham. He had no idea how fast the water was rising around him, and I told him the roads that I knew were closed from the internet and Ceefax. We plotted his journey home and I rang him with regular updates. Sod the “no phone” rule – this was serious.

Eventually, he got to Gloucester but, of course, this was flooded and he had to negotiate the back-doubles to get in the right direction for home. By the time he had arrived at Corse/Staunton he was faced with a sea of water and abandoned cars loomed out of the darkness at him. He turned around and tried to get across country but was faced with a pond of grey, swirling water wherever he looked. There was no choice but to go back to Gloucester and try another way – via Newent.

By the time he had reached Dymock it was gone 2am and I couldn’t face another cup of tea. The fire was holding on by its teeth and I refused to add more wood. He’d be home soon and all he’d want was a shower and bed.

2.15am and he rang again. The Leadon had burst its banks and taken the little hump-backed bridge with it. He’d tried to get into Ledbury to come around from the other angle but everywhere was closed. He’d come all that way and was stranded five minutes from home.

The wonderful landlords at the Beauchamp Arms had got the pub open all night and were serving hot drinks, sausage/bacon baps and offering the floor to anyone who needed it. It was packed with stranded travellers and locals alike, who just couldn’t get round the broken River Leadon. “I’m okay, love, try and get some sleep. Somehow I’ll get home in the morning – even if I have to swim.” Sleep? Yeah, right! But at least he was safe – in the warm and dry.

I was up early and rang mum. How on earth were we going to go to Devon today, with all this going on? I couldn’t leave without Jimmy being home. We couldn’t get out of the village last night, but I had no idea what the local roads were like this morning. Mum, being mum, got her beast of a Discovery out and said she would come out and see for herself. There’s no telling her. She’s ex-army and thinks she can take on the world, even if she is 60!

I was amazed when I heard her pulling on the drive. She told me the top road was clear now but that there were loads of abandoned cars. It was spooky – like the end of the world or some sci-fi film where vehicles littered the empty roads as if some great plague had befallen man-kind. The bottom of our lane was still like a reservoir, but passable with care in a 4x4. She’d spoken to a bus driver on the Gloucester route, and he’d said the A38 was clear so, if we went to Devon, that was the way to go. But there was no way we were going until Jimmy was safe and sound at home. If we could get out to go at all, that is.

Alfie barked and I shushed him, but then nearly fell over when Jimmy walked in. He was ashen but smiling his twinkly smile and we hugged. He’d set off on foot – trousers rolled up to his knees and tried to walk home. The Leadon was running far too fast and he knew he’d get swept away so turned back again towards Dymock. Then, he set off towards Ledbury, wading along the road past the golf club which was completely under water. A huge Somerfield lorry appeared from nowhere (well, Gloucester actually) and offered him a lift into Ledbury. This sized vehicle was probably all that could get through so he thought he’d go to my mum’s but once in Ledbury, he saw a farmer he knew out with his pick-up. To cut a long story short, he got a lift back to the village hall and was home.

We’ve been lucky. So many have lost their homes and some have lost their lives. But the community spirit that has come out from this leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy – a bit like in the war, I’d guess. People pulling together, working towards the same thing and offering shelter and help where they can. How it should be.

The job of cleaning up and rebuilding looms ahead. It won’t happen overnight and the scars will show for a long time. When I was in Devon, we went to Boscastle and saw the rejuvenated village, still being worked on but bustling once more. Jimmy had to go on his bike to collect the van as it was the only way round 2 days later, once the water had subsided enough to cross the broken bridge, with extreme care. The road is closed to motor vehicles so he had to go round to Ledbury to bring it home along the top road. By the time I came back from Devon, a week later, I still couldn’t use the bridge, but was able to get across at the next little hamlet. The bottom of our lane is scarred with silt and debris, but is passable once more.

The sun shone yesterday and is shining today. A simple thing, sunshine, as is the rain. Simple but powerful – too much or too little and countries can be brought to their knees. Whether you agree with climate change or not, one thing is for sure: Mother Nature demands respect and I hope that the “powers that be” take note of this latest reprimand and pull together to look after this wonderful planet.


Anne said...

Greetings from me! I just found you blog by accident and have thoroughly enjoyed reading through! I too have felt desperately sad for all those poor people who have lost so much in the awful floods, who could fail to be moved having witnessed what we have.

Good luck with the B&B business - hard work, but I hope worthwhile ;o)

ChrisH said...

I'm very glad Jimmy got home in one piece but your blog really brings home the immediacy of the situation. We will refrain from rain-dancing and try not to send any further deluges of Welsh water your way.

Posie Rosie said...

Oh waht a time you've had, but so lucky your home didn't get flooded. I am so glad Jimmy made it home, what an anxious wait you had.
Lovely to catch up, Posiex

FunkyMunky said...

I can just imagine how worried you must have been. My husband has a fairly long drive to work each day and I'm always nervous when I know he's on the road. To have those conditions on top must have been very scary for you - and for Jimmy. I'm so relieved he managed to make it home eventually.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

i know what you meant about feeling the end of the world had come with all the abandoned cars on the was simply unreal! But did you notice ...perfect strangers talked to each other...united in the face of adversity!

Suffolkmum said...

Gosh Woozle it sounds horrendous. I'm so glad he got back safely, I can imagine how worried you must have been. It feels like it happened in another country - we were so lucky here in the east, we got the rain but no flooding, the pictures on the news seemed unreal.

muddyboots said...

was wondering what was happening on your side of the Severn. What was the Corse / Corse Lawn area like? A relation married at eldrsfield in early 1980s, we all went in wellies as there was a big flood, but, that was winter... so the leadon still floods does it?

Faith said...

Your excellent blog has really brought it home to me. It's agony waiting for loved ones in those circumstances. Mother nature certainly does command respect.

Elizabethd said...

What a terrible night you had. So glad all is well.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully moving post, sending a shiver down my spine and forming a tear in my eye. I am so fortunate where I live on top of a hill. You must have been frantic. How awful for you but I'm so glad for your that's everything's okay. You are indeed right about people pulling together. They always do. It's human nature.

Love Crystal xx

Blossomcottage said...

Its easy to just think "Oh dear how terrible" but when you see it written down by someone who has been involved in it all somehow it becomes so much more real. I am so glad things are getting better for everyone.

LittleBrownDog said...

Wow - that journey was a real odyssey! So glad to hear it had a happy ending for you, but must have been nailbiting whilst it was going on. Brilliantly written, by the way - I felt as though I was there.

I know the roads you talk about well - we're not far from the Gloucestershire border - and feel so lucky to have escaped the worst of it.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh dear was on the edge of my seat reading this - what a worrying time for you and everyone affected by the flooding. As Blossom says reading your blog does rather bring the current disasters home . .

bradan said...

Golly, that made quite scary reading! Glad J. got home safely at last.

P.S. I love your fireplace, can imagine you curling up beside it!

CAMILLA said...

So glad that your husband got home safely Woozle, I can just imagine how worried you were. We were quite lucky here in North Norfolk, much rain, but no floods. I believe it is the worst of the weather since 1760. Does Milla live near you Woozle? I know that she has been experiencing the floods also. Love your 3 Muskateers by the way.


The Country Craft Angel said...

I would have been beside myself too.

It is awful that rain can cause so much destruction and misery for people.

Great to see you blogging and already looking forward to seeing you in the autumn once kids gone back to school!!

warmest wishes

Grouse said...

Lovely to meet you on Wed......left a note in the common room to warn everyone just how grim you are in real life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do let me know if you are coming back up...we can usually find space for people.
Did you get the Harry Potter finished?
Love Grouse xxx

Pondside said...

What a terrible time that must have been. I saw the flooding on the news and felt so sorry for all those affected. So glad that your Jimmy made it home!

Poetess said...

Hi found your blog

What a dreadful night you put in. and such a terrible disaster to face.


@themill said...

Late agin Woozle, but that sounds so terrifying. We have been very fortunate here in the North and isn't it strange how the late summer we are enjoying now makes a mockery of two months ago?