Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Year of the Floods - Again

It seems unfair to be sitting in warm Italian sunshine, while my home county is under-water and the lead feature on the international news. It’s been an anxious time - we live in an old mill on the banks of a big river and it floods regularly. Before we left we stripped everything out of the ground floor, just in case the water rose high enough to come inside. And on Thursday it happened. A series of telephone calls as the river rose. Appleby on the news as residents filled sandbags and evacuated their belongings, expecting the Noah-style inundation we had in 2005 which almost reached the ceilings and made thousands of people homeless across Cumbria.

You can see from the picture the force of the water powering its way through windows and doors - the lintels of two windows are just visible. The wreckage left behind can be seen from outside in the photo taken next morning.
This time, it only flooded the ground floor of the mill (which is raised up about four feet above the river) to a depth of six inches, leaving a mess of mud and river debris. Appleby's riverside shops and houses were also flooded, though it escaped the worst of the weather. Other towns and villages weren’t so lucky and some of our friends are homeless again only five years since they were last flooded out. Neil has gone home, while I watch the internet news with disbelief at the scale of the flooding.
Living as we do with the rising and falling of the water, we’ve got used to compromising with it. I don’t grow anything in the garden that doesn’t survive being under-water. We don’t use the ground floor except in summer. We park our cars at the top of the hill as soon as it begins to rain. And, although it washes away my garden soil and floats off anything not tied down, it also brings gifts.
Last winter it left two beautiful
'accidental' sculptures on the weir. One a branch like a water sprite, trailing her arms in the water; the other a tree-stump like the head of a beast. They stayed there for a couple of months before the river rose again, carrying off the naeid, and moving the ‘beast’ up onto the river bank next to my garden.


There he’s remained all summer like a primitive carving - a god of the river - looking at me every time I glance out of the window. I suspect, after the water levels of the past few days the river will have moved him on, perhaps to dump him in someone else’s garden and I will be very, very sorry.

7 comments:

  1. Oh Kathleen
    The power of water is mighty and without conscience and I feel so sorry for people not far from here who are victims again.
    But I am relieved that you take great precautions and impressed that for all the grief you see another side to this. Sad to think that there is something of a natursl penalty for living in such a beautiful place.
    The photos and the poem say so much about emotional survival in these disastrous situations.
    You are better in the sun...
    wx

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  2. I feel quite guilty here when everyone at home is suffering so much. Which is crazy, because I wouldn't be able to do anything if I was there. Today the weather's changed here - colder and wetter - definitely wintry.
    X Kathy

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  3. Kathleen,it is truly awful to watch the devastation caused by the floods and I am just so grateful that I don't have to face these hardships.

    You understand them and deal with them accordingly -as Wendy says this is very impressive. Survival is everything and you chart that emotional survival by creating beautiful and poignant images with your words- sometimes this is all we can do.

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  4. I hadn't thought of writing as survival - more just trying to make sense of things. Thanks Avril.
    X Kathleen

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  5. Nature has its way of reminding us just how little we all are.

    Be it floods or fire all we can do is ride it out the best we can and pick up the pieces later.

    Finding beauty in the wreckage seems to be a way of, as you say, "making sense" of it all.

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  6. It's true Al - we have to find a way of living with nature and that's something we've forgotten. there seems to be an illusion that we can control it!!!!!
    Good to see you back on the blogo-sphere.
    X
    Kathleen

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  7. So relieved that the mill still stands - thank goodness you shifted everything before leaving. But you are right about the fanciful notion of controlling nature. At best we can merely accommodate it.

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