Thunderstruck

Bit of a lie there, as it’s the Anniversary of the flood I mentioned in my last post I used dramatic license. It was not a storm, it was rain, incessant rain, day after day and a coming together of factors that caused the flood. But any excuses to play AC/DC.

It was a Friday night, just the same as most Fridays, my two year old daughter was staying over and my friend and next door neighbour came around after she went to bed. My friend being wheelchair bound had said goodnight to Dodo, his fifty year old Amazon Parrot, his friend since birth, passed down from his Dad (more of him later).

I will save the epic version of the day for my book, that book many of us plan to write one day and never get around to. My then house overlooks the river and the castle you can see at the back of these writings. At around 11pm, my daughter fast asleep I popped onto my balcony for a quick cigarette, and noticed the water was high, this in itself was not unusual, it often reached a high level but this seemed eerily different. There was men around the car park, yellow jackets and torches glinted across the way on the railway track and the water was traveling at a ferocious pace, I could see trees in the river instead of the usual branches or debris.Jokingly I said to my friend that it was going to flood.

At around 1am the water breached the top of the wall, it had never done that before, and it crept along the grass outside, just twenty or so feet from my door and the rain still fell, no, surely not ? Time to put local radio on, sure enough, weather warnings, flood alerts were transmitted but still no automated warning from the Environment Agency, the one we were reassured we would receive in the literature we were delivered, that would give us prior notice. The weather and nature were relentless, at 3am, the water entered my house, preceded ten minutes earlier by my cat as she meowed her way up my stairs, living in a 3 story house I was lucky, my utility room and toilet being on the ground floor, living area on the first. The cat looked puzzled, I am sure she shrugged her shoulders and pointed at the door in a WTF manner, but I cannot verify that 😉

Once in that was it, there was no way that water was leaving. I found my old waders and popped outside, there were firemen out there, I chatted with one, he told me to open my doors front and back and let it take its course, he asked me to knock on as many doors as I could and warn the neighbourhood, especially the elderly. I did, and popped back inside, my daughter still sleeping, my friend incredulous. I made a coffee and heard a noise I had never heard before outside near the balcony, grabbed my torch and shone it below my house to see an otter and young making unearthly noises. I shone the torch on her and around her as she seemed to be swimming against my wall. In my mind I helped them escape the confusion back into the water flow,

What about Dodo ? My friend lived in a ground floor flat, Dodo in a large cage. I had to go and check, now Dodo hated me, nothing personal, he hated everyone except his owner and small children, He would attack and get territorial if I neared his domain. But he was not stupid, The water was now 3 feet high as I entered the flat and Dodo was floating in his cage in the chaos. I grabbed the cage, he seemed to realise this was not the time for a fight, took him out, and laid his cage down in the hallway of the 2nd floor, he was safe.

Back home I waded and suddenly appreciated the true strength of water and respect I should have for it, upstream in that much water is a massive effort. I decided against waking up my daughter as we weren’t going anywhere and we were safe.

The radio stayed on, the electricity lasted until the early morning but soon that cut off too. At around 8am, obviously none of us slept I could see a helicopter winching a woman and what I later found out was a small child from a house just up the road. My daughter was now wide awake and confused as you might expect so I distracted her with games. Then a bizarre sight as a Speedboat came into view from my kitchen, it sped past/around/over the cars outside and one of the rescuers shouted up to ask if I wanted out. I could perhaps have waited but my phone reception had died, house phone too and I knew Mum would be worried about her daughter.

So like a scene from a Sitcom I carried a wheelchair through the water to the boat, I then carried a two year old child while two fantastic rescuers carried my friend, then I jumped in with the inevitable result of water soaked trousers and no belt… It was incredible to see the devastation as we turned onto Caldewgate (locals know where I mean) some pictures here,my area being the third picture.
caldew 2caldew 3calew 4
I could tell 100 stories of that night, of neighbours, of animals of the way seeing your house devastated affects you. But I was lucky, I lost my car, my mobile phone went swimming, I lost master copies of football games I had filmed for years. I lost stuff….. Some people lost things they had spent years building. A lifetime of memories, I eventually was compensated by Insurance, some weren’t, 10 months later my house was fit for proper occupation. Flood defences have since been built, it should not happen again.

And Dodo recovered, and continued to hate me, and I was happy about that !

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