The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (15)

June 7, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Fifteen:

“Picnic Anyone?”

Unlikely flood heroes

Unlikely heroes in a flood!?

Throughout Tuesday 18th February 2014, a number of fire engine crews from all over the country descended on Wraysbury, dropping off large containers and various pieces of equipment. One particular unit of the Chorley and Lancashire Urban Search And Rescue Services called ‘Blue Watch’ arrived late afternoon and began setting up a huge industrial pumping station right outside our house. I watched with intrigue as they began laying hundreds of yards of hoses in and out of the field opposite and all the way down to the River Thames. It didn’t take long for curiosity to get the better of me so I went across to ask them if they would like a cup of tea or coffee. I always assumed firemen must get inundated with offers of tea where ever they go, so I was surprised when they jumped at my offer with immense gratitude ordering, six teas, four white, three with two sugars and one with three sugars, one black and one white with no sugar and two white coffees, both with one sugar!!?

Despite needing my wife to help me manage such a complex and diverse order, for some reason that still escapes me today, I chose to complicate things further and introduce another component into the order. I decided to see if the boys from Chorley fancied some of my bulk-supply of Picnic bars.

As they got stuck into their Picnic bars I was a bit surprised and disappointed to hear that despite coming all the way from Lancashire to help out our little village of Wraysbury, they had not been offered a single cup of tea all day.

Picnic BarHaving broken the ice by demonstrating some good old fashioned hospitality, I asked them “So, just what exactly are you doing here?” Without hesitation, they told me “We’re going to try and empty the water from the field opposite and pump it back into the river” This sounded pretty ambitious to me, “It is a very big field, how long do you think that will take?” I asked. “Difficult to say, probably 2-3 days but we won’t know until we have the pumps up and running.” I left them to their work and told them if they don’t get inundated with offers of tea and coffee from the kind residents of Wraysbury, they should give me a shout, pointing to my house across the road.

Despite the EA’s miraculous ability a few days ago to lower the water levels by 7.5 inches (19cms), many pockets of deep water still surrounded several properties including my own. The water around our house was still about 12 inches (30cms) and had not moved over the past few days. It was clear we were in a low-lying area. I thought about asking my new friends from Chorley to come and look at my property to see if there was anything they could do to help. But decided not to, for fear of yet another refusal to help me.

I soon became familiar with the shift pattern of Blue Watch as I continued to meet their demands of tea, coffee and my precious Picnic bars! They worked tirelessly maintaining their pumps and checking the field opposite to monitor their progress. They worked round the clock with another crew, disappearing after eight hours only to return eight hours later to start another shift. Both teams kept this up for a full 72 hours.

Soon we were supplying both crews with tea, coffee and Picnic bars. One evening, we had seven firemen standing in our flooded kitchen drinking their beverages! One of the firemen commented on how deep the water was in our garden. I agreed and changed the subject saying “It must be a bit strange for you guys to have water as the enemy?” They must have heard that one before because no-one laughed.

The following day after their eight hours of rest Blue Watch returned. Once they had checked on the pumps and had consumed their first tea, coffee and Picnic bar of the shift, they came to look at the garden again.

"It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!"

“It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!”

They told me they would probably finish with the field shortly and would be returning to Chorley. One of them said that they had told their shift supervisor about our hospitality and how deep the water was around our house. “We asked if we could use our big pumps to try and drain your water out but have been told we can’t”.

Despite being disappointed at the news I thanked them for helping our village and wished them well. “We are not going yet”, one of them said, “Not until we have tried to empty your garden!” I wondered how, if they had been told not to. He continued, “I may be confused but I think our supervisor only said we couldn’t use the big pumps.” he smiled “So, we will just have to beg steal and borrow what equipment we need”. I was really touched.

Within 20 minutes all six of them returned with different pieces of machinery and piping. They had borrowed hoses from the London fire crews, a water pump (which took four of them to carry) from the Somerset team, plus a few more bits and pieces that they weren’t sure who owned.

They spent at least two hours pumping out the garden, moving the heavy equipment around as water levels dropped and new low points were revealed. By the time they finished we could see our beautiful lawn again, albeit through a layer of crap from the flood. At last our dog Bracken could go in the garden, which was something he hadn’t been able to do for nearly three weeks.

I thanked the team from Chorley and gave them their last cups of tea and coffee, leaving them to fight over the remaining three picnic bars. Seventy-two picnic bars had gone in less than seventy-two hours!

Sadly, within three hours of waving them goodbye, the water began to fill back up in the garden as high as it was before. It was fun while it lasted, although sadly it would be a long time before anyone fancied having a Picnic on our lawn again!

(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (14)

May 27, 2014
"An eerie night-shift"

“Midnight in the Wraysbury triangle”

(Cont…..) Part Fourteen:

The Night Shift

Increasingly residents of Wraysbury were worried about looters. Many houses had been evacuated and the west side of the village was beginning to resemble a ghost town.

Most evenings during the floods I had donned my hi-visibility vest and patrolled the streets. One particular night I left my flooded home armed with my vacuum flask, head torch, hand torch and mobile phone. There would be no looting that night, not on my watch!

My two-hour shift began at 23.00hrs, It was a cold and miserable night, the water on the roads was still at least 2 foot (60cms) deep. It was an eerie sight, empty houses everywhere and not a soul around. For an hour I walked down the three roads that formed what I called ‘the Wraysbury triangle’ occasionally shining my torch at abandoned-looking houses.

I felt very proud about what I was doing. I thought if I knew someone like me was patrolling the streets, I would sleep a little better knowing their presence might just deter the opportunistic burglars who were growing in threat as the flood continued.

Halfway through my shift I found a good vantage point where I could see at least two of the roads and more importantly my house, where I had left my wife alone and pretty much in darkness due to our compromised electricity supply. As I drank my coffee I was thinking how abandoned our house must look, which might just catch the eye of any prowler. Just then, a small 4×4 jeep came towards me very slowly.

Despite my hi-visibility jacket and driving close enough for me to see there was a male driver and at least one other passenger, the driver seemed not to see me. I finished off my coffee as I watched him drive very slowly further down the road.

After a few yards he stopped for about 30 seconds and set off again and then stopped again, this time for much longer. I was convinced they were up to no good. Why were they stopping? What were they doing? I decided to follow them. Despite the deep water, I was gaining on them and had to quickly think what I would say to them. I checked my phone was at hand but then remembered I had used up the battery earlier messing about trying to make a video of the surreal situation of patrolling alone in the middle of the night, in a flooded village. There was not a soul in sight despite just about every rescue service in the UK claiming to be here, helping!

Undeterred by something as futile as no means of communication, I decided to keep going, besides they were in my sights now and I was totally convinced they were up to no good. I was within thirty feet (9 m) of them when the car moved on again very slowly.

As I reached the house they had stopped at, I quickly scanned it with my torch. Just then a window opened and someone shone a very powerful torch at me, lighting up my hi-vis jacket like a firework. Before I could tell him he realized and switched it off. “Why the hell is he doing driving so slowly?” he shouted. “I don’t know” I replied, “I’m trying to catch up with them, can you call the police for me?” He agreed to do that and wished me luck. By this time the car had stopped again so I was gaining on them once more. My heart was pounding, I knew the Police would take a while to get there, if they came at all. I was speeding up whilst also trying to be as quiet as I could. I nearly fell twice, tripping over submerged bollards at the side of the road.

The car took off again. I wasn’t sure if they’d seen me or not as they turned left onto a quiet road. Despite living in the village for ten years, I had never been down that road and so had no idea if it was an escape route or if they had just pulled out of sight.

I stood listening to the car engine, which suddenly stopped. It was just around the corner. I was close, ‘I don’t know what to say’ I thought to myself. ‘Maybe I should just wait for the Police’. Instead I decided to confront them.

"Strangers in the night!"

“Strangers in the night!”

As I turned the corner the car was just there at the entrance to a driveway. The driver’s car door opened and a tall guy wearing a head torch got out. “Hello” I said. He said nothing he just switched on his head torch and shone it right in my face, so I quickly did the same. There we were in the middle of the night trying to blind each other with our Tesco ‘buy one get one free’ head torches. “Do you live here?” I asked. “Yes” he replied. I didn’t expect that, I quickly retorted “What number is this house then?” hoping he would crack under interrogation. “Number eight” he said. ‘What should I say now?’ I thought, I had no idea what number house it was. If I said okay and it wasn’t number eight then he would have the upper-hand. “That may well be” I said. “Only there has been a lot of looters coming round here, so me and the other volunteers are just keeping an eye on things”. I was trying to create the impression that I wasn’t alone. “Are you on your own?” he asked. “No, of course not” I said trying to make light of it, “there is another team just around the corner” Just then his passenger appeared behind me. Trying to not look too startled I turned round slowly to see a woman dressed in a full-length wet suit carrying a large ‘empty looking’ rucksack!!! Now I am no detective but something did not look right to me. They were very intimidating and both standing very close to me, one behind dressed like a scuba diver and the other in front of me trying to burn out my retina with his head torch. I was surrounded!!

The man in front spoke out “Well, if I was who you think I am, someone like you would not last two seconds” I was pretty scared, now being threatened with no means of communication, all alone and practically freezing to death I decided to go for the sympathy vote. “I’m just trying to help, keeping an eye on things, you know, doing my bit for the community. Anyway, good night” I said, beating a hasty retreat not daring to look back to see if they were following.

It took me about ten minutes to get home through all the water, I was furious. Why had I not topped up my phone battery before I went out, why had I messed about trying to make a movie and why was I so crap at dealing with confrontation?

As soon as I got into the house I grabbed my wife’s phone and called the Police. I was delighted to hear my suspects had already been reported, presumably by the chap hanging out of his bedroom window and the police were on their way. Phew!

After my near death ‘night-shift’ experience, I decided I would concentrate my home guard efforts just to my own street from now on, at least there I knew the house numbers!
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (13)

May 10, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Thirteen:

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

"Will someone please help?!!"

“Will someone please help?!!”

Saturday 15th February 2014 brought with it some terrible winds, thankfully however the re-flood we were bracing ourselves for never appeared. The water in the garden was still quite deep though at around two feet (600cms) which meant that many of the bushes and trees resembled something out of the everglades with the ground below them just very soft mud.

I was getting increasingly concerned about two sixty feet (18m) pine trees at the bottom of the garden that over hang an outdoor hut which we had recently purchased as a Christmas present to ourselves. As the wind got stronger, I became more and more obsessed with the trees. Watching them constantly from the living room window I reassured myself  ‘Surely we do not deserve any more bad luck?’. Eventually I could stand it no longer and put on my waders to venture down to take a closer look. I was horrified to see the roots of one of them totally exposed!

I ran back to the house (well perhaps not ran exactly, the water was still a couple of feet deep plus I had put my wife’s waders on by mistake) I had no idea what to do. Reluctantly I decided to phone the bronze control centre but was yet again told there was no help available.

I found it really difficult to just stand and watch the trees get blown over towards our lovely thatched hut, partly because I was still wearing my wife’s waders and partly because I wasn’t sure if it would be covered with the house insurance. I kept trying to think of ways I could prevent them from falling any further.

After about an hour of head scratching I was delighted with the arrival of six firemen from the London Fire-brigade who had come to see if they could help. For forty-five minutes we all paced up and down the garden in our waders, trying to figure out how the trees could be restrained and be prevented from falling on the hut. Strangely I was pleased to see their concern, it was reassuring me I had not over reacted about the situation and had done the right thing asking for help.

After much deliberation over winches and pulleys they finally came up with a plan and called their watch commander on the radio to get his approval to execute it. For an agonizing fifteen minutes we waited for their commander to give the go ahead. Unfortunately the long awaited call back brought bad news, apparently for health and safety reasons it was too risky for the firemen to get involved. Besides my tree was not on a public street and so not a threat to the community!?

I was disappointed but not surprised. I think the firemen were more frustrated than I was as they repeatedly apologized and said they wished they had just gone ahead and done it without asking for permission. Nevertheless, I thanked them for their efforts and assured them we would sort something out ourselves, after all that was what we had been doing for the past month.

By now the storm had gone away, however the degree of lean of one the trees meant that the threat of it falling, had by no means gone away.

I tried to ignore the trees for the remainder of the day deciding to put on my volunteers fluorescent jacket and do my anti-looter rounds, which I had by now become accustomed to particularly when I was pissed off. Secretly I was hoping I might catch a looter to take out my aggression on.

"Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving"

“Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving?”

The following morning the weather was pretty good and more water had gone from the garden. However, the worst tree now looked as if it was about to take out the hut, next doors fence and a large Acer tree! But not quite a threat to the community yet, sadly.

Unexpectedly our son and his girlfriend arrived offering to help sort the problem. I watched as my son waded down the garden and produced from his arsenal of gardening tools he now stored in our barn, an implement I had never seen him use before.

With great expertise and dexterity he systematically worked his way through every single branch on the tree, cutting each one slowly with a saw attached to a pole that he gradually extended to at least sixty feet (18m). He finished the job by cutting about ten feet (3m) off the height of the tree. Despite being devastated that such a beautiful tree was now just a fifty foot (15m) log sticking up out of the ground, I was relieved and very proud of my son for helping us make it safe, God knows no-one else was willing to help.

We celebrated with a beer and spent the rest of the day chopping up the branches and joking about things we could ask for help with, which might just get a ‘yes’ response.
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (12)

May 6, 2014

(Cont……) Part Twelve

As if by magic!!

"As if by magic!!!?"

“As if by magic!!!?”

Before we could enjoy the non-essential supplies our daughter had brought us on Thursday evening 13th February 2014, our doorbell rang! Which is not particularly strange under normal circumstances, however our doorbell had not been pressed since the flooding started, which had been over a month ago. To my surprise, it was a messenger representing the environment agency. He had kindly come to tell us ‘they’ would be dropping the water level around our house by eight inches (20cms) but warned us not to get too complacent as they were just doing this to make space for the heavy rain forecast for the coming weekend. Thanking him for thinking about us and for the information, I closed the door. For a moment or two I could not speak. I had to process what I had just been told. ‘Did he just say they were going to drop the water level eight inches (20 cms)?’ I kept asking myself over and over. ‘How the hell are they going to do that? After all, this was an uncontrollable flood, was it not?’

“Who was at the door?” my wife enquired, which she had been doing repeatedly from the kitchen since the doorbell rang. “I think it was someone from the environment agency”, I replied. “He said they are going to drop the water level by eight inches (20cms) to make way for the storms at the weekend” I told her, struggling myself to believe what I was saying. The water in our home was still twelve inches in the annex and four inches in the main house. Even without my engineering background I could have quickly calculated that a drop like that would put the water level at four inches below coming in the house. However, not even my engineering background could help me understand how the Environment Agency could actually do that, after all this was a natural disaster was it not, beyond the control of any mere humans or the environment agency……was it not?

Before retiring to bed at about nine O’clock, (which by this point had become pretty normal due to limited electric, no Sky TV and being very tired as a result of everything that was going on) I decided to mark exactly where the water level was outside the house so I could check if indeed it dropped at all. ‘Eight inches?’ I remember mulling over and over in my head as I laid in bed, wondering what odds a bookmaker might offer me on that if I was to call them. Then I remembered I had unplugged the telephone due to a shortage of electric sockets and that my mobile phone was probably flat, and so I fell asleep.

Friday 14th February 2014 was going to be a busy day, (Don’t worry, I hadn’t forgotten what day it really was) Bracken had to be taken to the vets for a blood test before he could have his next dose of chemotherapy. The plan was that I would give him that weeks chemotherapy since it was cyclophosphamide which is in tablet form and of course being a former Royal Marsden oncology nurse, I couldn’t think of anyone better to do that.

The day before I had again asked for help at the command centre. I had done this in the hope that I could avoid the challenging task of carrying a 27kg dog through thigh deep water and risking him getting an infection in his immune compromised state, from the polluted Thames water that surrounded our home and village. But as you might expect if you have been following my blog, help was not forthcoming …….. yet again! Even the RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) who had enjoyed much media publicity for being the first emergency services to come to Wraysbury, said they couldn’t help. Apparently they didn’t have a vet who could come to the house and take his blood! I did not dare ask if they would consider taking him to the vet for me, after all they were very busy!

"No, we didn't forget!"

“No, we didn’t forget!”

When morning came, I rather nonchalantly made my way downstairs expecting the water in the house to still be at the level it had been for the past couple of days and winning the bet I had made with myself that ‘the environment agency were actually not capable of doing anything they said they would’.

As I reached the ground floor I was astounded to see the water had practically gone from the house. There was some water pooled around the edges of the laminate flooring but apart from that it was pretty much all gone! I hurried outside to check the marks I had made the night before and confirmed to myself the water had actually dropped quite significantly. So much so I felt compelled to get my tape measure and check exactly how much it had fallen. “Seven and a half inches! (19 cms)” I shouted up to my wife. “How the **** have they done that?” I asked her. More importantly though, I asked myself, ‘If they could do that, then why did they not do it three days ago and prevent our house from flooding in the first place?’

So, I had lost my bet with myself, for once the environment agency had done exactly what it said it would, to within half an inch (12mm’s). In less than eight hours!!! Sadly, it was three days too late for us!

The water in the front garden was fortunately low enough now for me to carry Bracken and lift him over the front gate which was now permanently closed to support my environmentally friendly dam and deter the flood wardens who previously had thought it their duty to dismantle it when my back was turned.

The water on the main road was also shallow enough to risk walking Bracken all the way to my car. It was a good day, his white blood cell count turned out to be high enough so we could give him his chemotherapy and the water was shallow enough around the house so that I could wear wellington boots instead of waders!! How crap was my life right then, if that constituted a good day??? Still, my wife and I did exchange Valentine’s day cards that evening, which neither of us opened. Instead we decided to keep that pleasure for a less shitty day!
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods -2014 (11)

April 19, 2014

(Cont……) Part Eleven

I Do Not Believe It!

I knew my theory about my life being like the Truman show was not real, however it did help me cope. After all my wife and I were coping pretty well, all things considered.

"What the F***?!!!!"

“What the F***?!!!!”

On Thursday 13th February 2014, the water levels in the house were pretty static.  Early morning my wife and I set off to move my car from the ‘safe’ car park in the village school where I’d been told to park it three days earlier. I had heard some neighbours saying that command control needed all the vehicles moved. I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to move them to exactly, as the water was still too deep on our road to get anywhere near the house. But compliantly we made our way to the school to do our bit.

As I arrived at the car park I couldn’t believe the sight that met my eyes. The vehicle I had spent years saving up for and the past twelve years looking after lovingly, was now all bashed in at the rear end. I remember thinking about my ‘Truman show’ theory but quickly pulled myself together. At first I thought perhaps it had been broken into but on closer inspection it was clear something very dark and very big had done this. It was in fact one of those children masquerading as the British Army who had driven into it in one of their enormous lorries.

Physically shaking and feeling sick, I went into command control to ask why no one had called me to let me know, despite my contact details being under the windscreen. Not surprisingly I got no explanation as to what had happened or even an apology for not being informed. I gave command control my contact details and ventured back outside to see if I could move my car. To top it all the battery had gone flat, probably because the alarm would have been going off incessantly with the damage that had been caused.

Thank goodness I had listened to my ever-cautious father many years ago and always carried a set of jump leads for this very occasion! Unfortunately though they were in the boot of the car, which was not going to open easily in its current state. After several unsuccessful attempts to get it open I went looking for help despite my many knock-backs when asking for help over the past few days. I decided to aim high and approached two Police officers who were busy enjoying their sandwiches in their 4×4.

My faith in the community services was revitalized as both of them stopped eating, jumped out of their vehicle and commenced trying to get access to the car boot!! Whilst I was delighted at last to get some help, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy about how enthusiastically they were breaking into my car. It was as if they couldn’t resist the opportunity to be the bad guys for a change and break into something!

Tell it how it is man!

Tell it how it is man!

Eventually after some discussion the three of us agreed on the optimum sequence of applying the jump leads (which I’ve already forgotten!) and they got us on our way …… I wasn’t sure where to but we were on our way. In an unfit state to go anywhere, (neither was the car) I drove to the local garage and left the car there until I figured out what to do next.

Despondent but not defeated by the mornings events, we began walking back towards home. The journey consisted mostly of me saying not much more than ‘I don’t believe it!’ over and over again. Of course there was plenty I wanted to say but none of it nice and most of it aimed at our beloved army, the government and the environment agency. Saying what I really thought about the UK, surrounded by British citizens was just asking for trouble. Just then, a reporter from a French radio station rFI (Radio France Internationale) approached us for an interview. I took one look at my wife and I could see her thinking ‘Please don’t’. For a fleeting moment I thought this might be a great opportunity to get things off my chest and say just how crap it was living in rip-off UK and warn the French that if any of them even remotely considered coming here, then don’t …… besides we also have the longest working week in the EU!

I managed to resist the temptation; in fact my wife and I were both very refrained considering what we were going through. I decided not to discuss the driving expertise of the British Army or the Police’s amazing ability to break into anything and the environment agency’s inability to do anything at all! The French reporter seemed happy with what we had to say, so God knows what I said. Anyway, what can you say when your house is shin deep in dirty Thames water other than ‘Je ne pas croire il’ as they say in France.

My wife had obviously had enough of me saying ‘I don’t believe this’ (even in French) and decided after our interview to venture into the village to get some supplies that our daughter had not brought yesterday. I wondered what on earth that could possibly be and if the Wraysbury village Post Office would have it anyway. It was beginning to thunder and rain quite heavily, I was concerned Bracken our dog would be getting upset on his own back at the house so we parted company and I headed home.

"After all, what's a bit of water in your house?!!!!!"

“After all, what’s a bit of water in your house?!!!!!”

Soon after I had left her, my wife spotted our daughter, unexpected and unannounced, driving through the village! My wife had the same emotional reaction to seeing her then, as I had the day before. Not thinking she would see her for perhaps two weeks she was delighted! Not only to see her again but because she had delivered all the essentials yesterday, she had now come back with flowers and treats for us. She also put my wife’s mind at ease telling her our cat was doing fine and hadn’t had any diarrhea at all!!? Unfortunately I didn’t get to see my daughter that day because I had gone home and the water was far too deep for her to come anywhere near the house.

Soon my wife arrived home with the non-essential (but incredibly uplifting) supplies our daughter had just brought. That evening we felt just that little bit more normal with a bottle of wine, tea-lights and flowers. After all, what’s a bit of water in your house? A question the majority of people who thankfully have not experienced their home being flooded could never truly know the answer to. And for all our sakes, let us hope they never will! ………. (to be continued)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (10)

April 14, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Ten

Welcome to the Truman Show!

"Essential flood supplies and more!"

“Essential flood supplies and more!”

After the usual unsettled nights sleep, upstairs on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ (We could only refer to upstairs as Gilligan’s Island now as downstairs was strictly speaking, completely underwater!) Wednesday 12th February 2014 began with my usual check on Bracken (my dog) to let him out onto our flat roof for his early morning ablutions. But that morning I was overwhelmed with a horrendous stench, ‘what the hell was in that Thames water?’ I thought. It took me a moment to realize, the smell wasn’t coming from the stagnant water downstairs, instead it was clear that the chemotherapy which Bracken had started five days ago was beginning to make it’s presence felt, there was s**t everywhere, the kind of s**t only chemotherapy could cause, which is on a whole new level! Trust me, I’m a former oncology nurse.

I began trying to clean up the evidence before my wife woke up, when I spotted one of our two cats downstairs stood in water up to her stomach, drinking it! Clearly this was no place for her, the water would kill her, unless we found somewhere for her to live for a while. Then it occurred to me, if she had to leave anyway, why not blame her for the smell and diarrhoea.
Genius I thought, as I sat drinking my first coffee of the day. Now I don’t know if I’d contracted dysentery overnight or my trench foot had began spreading to my brain but this random thinking was increasing in frequency. I began to seriously think perhaps all the events connected to the flooding were not real. A bit like the Truman show! (a film about a man who’s life unbeknown to him, existed in a TV world where the whole world watched him face challenging situations which were thrown at him one after the other by the studio directors. Truman and how he reacted to those challenges were the only real things in his TV world)
It was all beginning to make sense now, the camera people everywhere, the hero Dave Francis, the heroine Su Burrows, the environment agency as the villain and an army with rubbish army costumes (no wellington boots and hair too long it wouldn’t fool an Iraqi insurgent). I was convincing myself the floods, Bracken’s cancer and everything else was just like the Truman show! (The Truman show – Wikipaedia)

As I had my fourth coffee I began to think I could hear some studio director or plot writer saying “The flood is not enough, I want more pain, I want more emotion, I need to see more suffering!” Thinking to themselves ‘How can we push this guy to the limit? We know he’ll break soon……… let’s try feeding his dog some poison while he is asleep and see how he reacts to diarrhoea everywhere.’ I decided that if my growing paranoid assumptions were correct then the best plan of action was to try and ‘not give a s**t’. After all, the whole world could be watching me.

Over the next few days, a sequence of events followed that would challenge even the patience of a saint!

With dwindling supplies and barely enough coffee-mate for my fifth cup of coffee, (fresh milk had long gone, since we had no refrigeration) I could hear the studio director calling ‘Cue elation!’ as our daughter arrived with essential supplies and yet more supplies. I had never been as pleased to see her, well not since the last flood four weeks ago. As she staggered across the front garden in her waders, thigh deep in water bringing everything a flood victim could need and more, I began to well-up, just how desperate a situation had this become that I was so emotional seeing my daughter carrying a box of everyday essentials?

Our family was disappearing!

Our family was disappearing!

We had a good couple of hours with her before she had to make the forty mile journey back home. I’m not sure who felt worst, her for having to leave her normally coping parents in such a desperate situation or us because she brought with her optimism and strength, which would shortly be leaving.

But there was one more job to do before she left, take the cat! I don’t like thinking that our cat is fat (well who would?) but she’s a big girl and quite heavy. Our daughter couldn’t get her car any closer than the village at least half a mile away, which was a long way to carry a ‘big-boned’ cat. I looked up and down the road for signs of anything remotely looking like someone who could help us. Then I spotted them, the ‘Water and Animal Rescue’ team parked in a van a hundred yards from our house. Perfect, I thought as put on my waders and made way towards them. There were six burly gentleman sat in the van as I reached it. The driver wound down his window for me to tell him what I wanted. ‘I have a cat that we need to get to the village, is there any chance you could help us?’ I asked. ‘Sorry mate, we don’t do that’ was the reply.
I didn’t even wait for a further explanation, not that I thought there was one coming. ‘Excuse me! I kind of thought my cat would qualify as an animal, my mistake’ I was really on the brink of kicking his van, to this day I don’t know how I stopped myself. All these people pretending to help and I had yet to experience any of it first hand. It was just like everyone was saying and doing things to push me over the edge, just like the Truman show! ‘I know what you mean mate’ he said. What the hell did that mean? I chose not to pursue things further and ignored him heading back towards the house.

It was a sad time carrying our cat all the way to the village, not just because she’s ‘generously portioned’ but also because it was as if we were giving in to the flood. Until now we had managed to convince ourselves we could carry on as normal. The reality was slowly kicking in. Our family was disappearing. Our son had already left home many days ago as a result of our comprised electricity supply and sewage system.

We said goodbye to our cat and our daughter, not knowing when she would get time off work to be able to visit us again. We slowly made our way back home. Perhaps it would not be long before Bracken could no longer cope with all this……or even us! (to be continued!)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!
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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (9)

April 10, 2014

(cont……) Part Nine

I Don’t Like to Complain,……but!

"Time for reflection and reflection and then some more reflection!"

“Time for reflection and reflection and then some more reflection!”

During what seemed like an age waiting for the Army to return and help me with my ecologically-friendly dam, an Emergency Rescue person appeared at my front gate.  He seemed agitated and was obviously desperate to tell someone what had just happened to him. I listened intently. “You’re not going to believe this mate,” he said, “but I’ve just waded here from the Control Centre to assist a person in need of urgent evacuation and you’ll never guess what I found!”

Intrigued and eager to hear more about someone in a possibly worse situation than myself, I urged him to go on.

“I was called to the house next door!”  He said, gesticulating wildly.  I had noticed, a little while earlier, a young chap standing at the top of the metal stairs outside the front door of the said house but had assumed he was out having a cigarette.  Goodness, maybe someone in there was ill! I knew there was a young family with a child in the house but I wasn’t sure who the other occupants were.

“What?” I said, “You mean the house that was built in breach of Building Regulations, that is at least 4’ (1.22m) off the ground and that has probably contributed to the fact that my home is now flooded inside!”

“Yes!” he replied, “and can you believe it, there was a bloke, about thirty or so, standing at the top of the stairs wearing a rucksack and a lovely pair of brogues. I asked him if this was the right address for the emergency evacuation. “Yes!” he said, “Thank God you’re here, my mate is coming to the village to collect me but I can’t get there as I have no Wellingtons boots, can you take me in a boat?”

“Unf****ingbelievable!” exclaimed the Rescue worker, shaking his head.

Actually I could believe it. I could believe anything these days. “You’re joking” I said, just to humour him, “I hope you told him where to go!” “No I didn’t actually” he said and a wicked grin crept across his face, “I told him to sit tight and someone would be along in a boat when we had one available! How long do you think he’s going to wait there in his shiny brogues until he gives up because I’m certainly not going to call for a boat!”  He was giggling to himself as he set off back to Command Control in the village.

For the first time in four weeks I was actually laughing, the stresses and strains of the past few weeks had taken their toll. I wondered just how long our poor Wellington-bootless neighbour would remain patiently waiting for his water taxi to the village…… an hour or two at least I hoped!

"Perhaps he will wait for one or maybe two hours....I do hope so"

“Perhaps he will wait for one or maybe two hours….I do hope so”

By this point I had been waiting over three hours for the Army to turn up with their log-dam experts. The distraction with the goings-on next door had helped pass the time but it was getting late and the water was continuing to steadily rise inside the house. It was dark now and I decided I could wait no longer. I waded back to the front gate to have a look up and down the road to see if there was any sign of the military.

You can imagine my complete sense of joy (not!) when I spotted a team of soldiers meticulously sandbagging the entrance to the drive of the house next door! Yes, the bloody house next door! The one about 4’ (1.22m) off the ground, in breach of Building Regulations and the one where not more than an hour before some selfish numbskull had thought it reasonable to call for an emergency evacuation because he didn’t own a pair of bloody wellies!!!!

As the soldiers built their wall of sandbags the water found itself another path and began to flow gently, reflecting the moonlight as it went, (how lovely, maybe my wife would like to take a few photos), under the fence dividing our properties and into my front driveway. I stood for a while, transfixed with horror. What were they thinking? The water was nowhere near entering the house next door and never would be. I was about to burst a blood vessel!

I was beginning to think that perhaps the lunatics had well and truly taken over the asylum and whilst these guys were only doing what they had been told, clearly neither them nor their superiors had a clue about identifying the most vulnerable and focusing their efforts there. It was time a former Royal Marsden nurse went and educated them about triage!!!

I’d had enough, I was a reasonable man but no more! I set off at a cracking pace to the village, muttering to myself about the injustices of life, the idiot would-be evacuee next door, the ridiculousness of actually being able to fish in my own garden and the fact that my waders were now chafing because I was trying to stomp!

I arrived at the Command Centre and stormed into the midst of the hall. I stood there, hands on hips, legs apart (because of the chafing obviously), glaring. It was like a scene from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!!

“Who is in charge here?” I exclaimed. There was an immediate hush, I looked around, I was surrounded by burly men, all in various uniforms and all looking at me! I must have looked more distraught than I thought I did because I soon got the reaction I had hoped for. For the first time, someone was listening to my concerns. I explained that I had asked for help over three hours ago and that my property was flooded and the water inside was continuing to rise as soldiers continued to indiscriminately sandbag non-vulnerable properties adding greater threat to those already under water!

Command Control apologized and they told me a team of soldiers would be with me straight away. Excellent. Some help at last! I waited for them outside hoping to get a lift back to my house. Just my luck, in their haste to help they had forgotten about me and had already left and were outside my house sitting in their enormous all-terrain vehicle by the time I had stomped (not quite so aggressively this time!) back home. Still, I was glad of their help, albeit three hours late!

After they had reinforced my eco-friendly dam and helped block the fence between mine and next door’s with their very large, very heavy sandbags, I decided to do the decent thing and gave them the last of my secret stash of Bounty bars (actually they were my wife’s Bounty bars, mine were the Picnic bars and I was keeping them in reserve to throw at any Environment Agency personnel I might see, they are much harder than Bountys). I couldn’t help smiling as I heard a cheer from the back of the vehicle as their Sergeant gave them their reward! I was pleased I’d shown them some appreciation, after all they were just there to help!.………(to be continued!)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near a yacht. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might contribute towards paying for his chemo!

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