The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (5)

February 28, 2014

Part Five

The aftermath of the January Wraysbury Flood 2014 …………… or just ‘The eye of the storm?’

Following the previous week of distress and anxiety we experienced a few weeks of frustration as we waited for the floodwater to subside from the annexe and the garden. During that time there were numerous telephone calls with our insurance company and the many different players in the flood recovery process. In particular we had to contend with a cyclone of clean up personnel who were a welcome sight to us once the water had subsided. There seemed to be little co-ordination, one company would call us one day and another the next. One team of workers came and ripped up the laminate flooring in the office and the gym. Unfortunately they didn’t pull up the chipboard flooring and insulation layers in the office (which I will expand on the consequences of in a later post). The team left us with one de-humidifier to dry out the office. It took them only a couple of hours, I was left with no evidence of the type of laminate flooring that used to be there and strangely felt as though I’d been burgled.IMG_1126

Office to the right, main house to the left………I think!

A few days later a cyclone hit us, in the form of two burly workmen who turned up a day earlier than they were supposed to. On returning from work I found all the damaged gym equipment dismantled and piled on the garage floor for apparently putting in a skip the next day. Again, I felt as though I’d been burgled, I still had to price up the equipment for the insurance company. Even though I visit the gym regularly, I couldn’t remember exactly what the different machines even looked like, let alone their serial numbers. They assured me they had photographed everything and documented it, which I had to trust them with.

The following day, the skip was duly filled with my beloved damaged goods and swiftly removed two days later. I was impressed with the speed of response but felt a little out of control owing to the lack of co-ordination between the multiple stakeholders in my post-flood clean up.

We thought we had died and gone to heaven when our central heating and hot water was restored thanks to a neighbour who happened to be a wizard electrician and who will forever be a very welcome guest in our house (my wife did say at one point that she wanted to marry him!). It took another three weeks for the water to subside sufficiently to enable us to get our fridge and freezer running again. We had become used to shopping for two to three days maximum at a time and were storing dairy produce in a bucket outside the back door.  We had never eaten so healthily, I have subsequently developed a new requirement for fresh bread every day!

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“Just what has he done to deserve this?”

We began to think we had survived the flood, although not unscathed and the worst was still to come! Bracken (who followers of my blog will know well) had found the flooding difficult, his mood had been down and his lymph nodes were beginning to enlarge rapidly. We decided we could no longer put off a visit to the Queen Mother Hospital at the Royal Veterinary College who had previously treated him (in conjunction with our local vet in Windsor), so on 7th February we embarked on the normal 45 minute drive from our house.  Five hours and numerous blocked flooded roads later our worst fears were confirmed.  After fourteen months in remission Bracken’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma had returned, he began CHOP chemotherapy that very day!

We returned home only to find the water was beginning to appear up through the ground in the rear garden. Surely,……..you cannot be serious!!!?

If you enjoy reading my blogs, any contribution, however small, towards Bracken’s now in excess of £6,000.00 chemotherapy bill, would be greatly appreciated.

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 may 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 the River Thames. 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 (4)

February 16, 2014

It seems strange writing this post about the first flood that happened four weeks ago, when I’m actually in the thick of an even greater challenge. However, the posts were already written so it would make sense to carry on in a chronological order. Please be patient….we are nearly there!

Part Four

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“I’ll try anything me!”

I was up off and on all night, having nightmares mostly, about water strangely enough. This time though morning came a little sooner than expected. Having checked the water on my last visit to the bathroom at about 4.00am I’d decided I would try to catch-up on my lost sleep and stay in bed until at least 8.30am, after all it was Saturday!.

At 7.30am there was a loud bang on the door, it was one of my neighbours. Don’t you hate it when you feel as if you’ve slept in but really you haven’t? “I think you should see this” she said, pointing out to my driveway entrance. Oh my god!!! Now I’ve seen the film ‘The Impossible’ so I know it wasn’t like a Tsunami but I challenge any one not to be shocked with what I saw, I had a river, compete with rapids, running into my already full front garden. It was coming from the field at the back of the houses opposite us, through their gardens, across the road and into my driveway and a couple of others. My immediate thought was how to slow it down, but I soon realized that whatever I was going to try and do it would probably be preferable for me to change out of my pyjamas first.

I knew the powers that be had already been refusing sandbags for garage doors so I suspected they wouldn’t let me have any for my gate, people had already started fighting over sandbags and the mood I was in I didn’t want to put myself in the position where I might murder some small footed panic buyer trying to get some sand bags for their rabbit hutch…….six miles away!

I decided to build a dam on the outside of my gate, like the beavers do. We have a log burner in the house so I had a constant reserve of large logs waiting to be chopped up, I decided to try and make a dam to at least slow the flow of water and buy us more time. I was pretty impressed with my efforts, whilst it didn’t stop the water completely it at least slowed it down and gave the water a reason to look for an easier way to go, which fortunately for me was along the road.

That’s when Sky television in the form of Steven Douglas turned up. My chance to be famous perhaps, what a shame I hadn’t had a shower since Wednesday morning and had been wearing the same hat (even in bed) for three days…….not a great look. (You can see it if you like on the following link: Bruce on Sky News)

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“It may come as deep as this Steven!”

Having filmed all round the house, Steven Douglas and his cameraman went on their way, they were extremely empathetic and I enjoyed talking to them. Steven told me it would be on the Six O’clock News but I didn’t really care. Unless Sky News could stop my house flooding then I wasn’t too interested.

By now we couldn’t get to the pavement in just Wellington boots, the water was at least 18” deep around the house, we needed waders, even to just get out of the house,……but preferably not polystyrene-lined ones!

Our daughter arrived later that day with supplies only a police officer could think of. Whilst I’m always pleased to see her, I can honestly say I’ve never been as pleased as I was to see her that day. She’d brought hot water bottles, Mars bars, dog and cat food, tins of food, soup, candles, kindling for the log fire and of course three pairs of waders (non-polystyrene). I was so proud of her to have thought of so much and I felt stronger just with her being there. She helped me move the cars to even higher ground as now the exhaust pipes were only millimeters from the water on the road.

By late afternoon our neighbour had given in and decided to move out and stay with her son for the night. She gave us a key to her house and said we were welcome to use her shower. I promised I would keep an eye on things but with only about two inches to go until the water breached her front door, I wasn’t sure what I was offering to do.

The water was still rising but had begun to slow down. I heard from neighbours who still had electric and had internet access that the environment agency had opened the Jubilee Relief River at 6.00am that morning, which had caused the field opposite us to flood and water to rise rapidly.  Well, good to know our neighbours upstream were safe and dry.

We were both too exhausted to care anymore. We had done everything we could and moved whatever we could lift in the house onto bricks or upstairs. All that was left for us to do was hope and pray.

ImageMy wife and I were not going to pass up the chance of a hot shower next door, we both wanted to be very stoic about things but after four days in dirty Thames water and being without heating in the middle of January we decided to accept the kind offer. It was like visiting a luxury spa! We went next door armed with clean pyjamas, shower gel and clean fluffy towels and indulged ourselves.  We even took the liberty of making a couple of coffees and just stood in the steamy warm bathroom enjoying the heat! We felt much stronger and warm for the first time in nearly a week. We would sleep well tonight because we’d stopped caring………we both agreed, it is what it is!

The first wave of the great flood of Wraysbury in 2014 peaked overnight in the early hours of Sunday 12th January 2014, rising within 3 inches of entering our home. That might sound a lot to anyone who has not experienced a flood but believe me, when you are faced with that, it’s an extremely frightening thing. Unfortunately the annex to the house that comprises of the garage, a gym, a utility room and my beloved office, wasn’t spared the devastation that threatened the main house, eight inches of water made it in there, what a pity someone in their wisdom ruled ‘no sand bags for garage doors’, before they considered the potential impact on some properties. Still we were all alive, that’s something, right? Forgive me for sounding ungrateful, I guess six days without hot water or any heating in January was beginning to take its toll. We had electricity limited to one room with plug sockets upstairs and lights available just in some rooms. Strangely enough, whilst we’d no microwave, or any sockets working downstairs, our oven still worked. From this point forward we will refer to our home as “Gilligan’s Island’.

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 may 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 the River Thames. 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 (3)

February 14, 2014

It seems strange writing this post about the first flood that happened four weeks ago, when I’m actually in the thick of an even greater challenge. However, the posts were already written so it would make sense to carry on in a chronological order. Please be patient….we are nearly there!

Part Three

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“The Front Garden?”

Friday morning 10th January 2014 came not a second too soon, it is the darkness of night that makes everything so much more frightening when you are in danger of flooding. There was a weird calmness in the air, similar to when it snows heavily and all sound is muffled a little. However, I was way less than calm inside, the water had been rising overnight. There was now at least eighteen inches (450mm) in the back garden and the front garden was also underwater, almost as much. Fortunately our house is built up from the ground so we had a reasonable way to go before it would breech the front and back doors, oh and the seemingly endless number of patio doors you only realize you have when you have to carry over sixty sand bags to make them safe. Unfortunately the annex to the house isn’t as well designed and is not as high. By now the water was beginning to run through the gym and utility room. The office was a few inches  higher again, so fingers were crossed, it was now out of bounds for fear of allowing more water in if we dislodged the sandbags.

Friday was a sunny day for a change, thank goodness the rain had stopped. For the first time since Tuesday I was beginning to feel a little more in control, let’s face it, I was now an expert in flood management. My somewhat futile attempt at self-appreciation was short lived when I checked on the fish. Clearly they weren’t well. Large Koi require a lot of oxygen and very clean water, one of them was lying on its side.  So the first job today was to get some temporary ‘kit’ for them. Armed with a debit card already reeling from my specialist Wellington boots purchase, my son and I headed out to the local aquatic centre to buy some ‘kit’….whatever that was! The water was splashing over the top of our boots now at the front of the house but undeterred we persevered and made it to the aquatic centre.

We returned home via Burger King, I needed to feed the troops again, armed with the necessary equipment to keep the fish alive (apparently that’s what ‘kit’ means), provided we could get the two biggest ones into a larger holding vessel (one of them was lying on it’s side by this point and looking pretty desperate). Our only option was the bath downstairs.

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“Out of my depth?…….just a bit!”

It is strange how you react to a gradual flood, you check the water levels and judge how much time you potentially have to complete a task before moving onto the next one.  Everything was done methodically and, with military precision, the fish were moved without hardly a drop of water being spilled as we carried them through the sitting room and hallway into the bathroom……. well, at least that’s what I told my wife!

We got the two biggest and arguably most suffering fish into the bath in our new ground floor bathroom and installed an aeration stone. We’d treated the tap water and hoped that things would improve, despite neither of them even being able to turn around, let alone stretch their fins. The other smaller fish were re-distributed between the two holding tanks and had an in-pond filter to support them. We waited and hoped that at least these water-loving creatures would survive the disgusting apology for water we were now surrounded by.

As the day progressed and we positioned more and more sand bags, the water seemed to slow down. For the first time since Tuesday, perhaps we could go to bed without fear of drowning. My end of day check revealed the water had only risen 1” (2.5cms) in the past eight hours or so, with perhaps about 5” (12.5cms) to go until the house was in serious danger, with a bit of luck we could get a good night’s sleep and even survive this!(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 may 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 the River Thames. 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 (2)

February 8, 2014

It’s strange writing a post about the flood that happened almost four weeks ago, particularly considering I’ve spent most of today sand bagging again for a potential second flood of 2014………but let’s keep it chronological, so here goes. I hope you enjoy!

Part Two

On Wednesday morning I went to work pretty much as normal for a first day back, whilst it was still dark when I left the house I could see well enough to check there was no water in our garden.

During the day, my wife sent me a few up-date texts on the water levels. It was clear given the current weather forecast, there was going to be no let up soon. By early Wednesday evening the water was beginning to come up from the ground in the back garden, firstly with the appearance of an impressive puddle in the middle of the lawn, gradually getting deeper and more widespread as the evening went on. Although I was worried, I knew that life would have to go on and decided I should go to bed early to face another day in the office tomorrow. My wife offered to stay up to keep an eye on things and promised to wake me if she needed to.

At 4.30am she woke me. I felt dreadful and full of fear, I wasn’t even sure I could get up but I did.  The electricity in the house had gone off and about half of the back garden was now under water.  The butyl liner in our pond had began to do the strangest thing and inverted itself, pushing upwards and inwards with the pressure of the water around and below it. The fish were pretty distressed by this point and as the water rose in the garden it wouldn’t be long before they would be able to swim out and into the emerging lake that used to be the garden!

Oh Dear!!!!

Oh Dear!!!!

Needless to say, there was no danger of me being able to go back to sleep. I tried, by torchlight, to see if I could do anything to turn some electrics back on, but without success.  I decided it might be better to wait until daylight.

After being up since the early hours I decided to work from home on Thursday, we waited for dawn to arrive so we could at least see what we were doing with the electrics.  I think it was the longest couple of hours ever!  We remained hopeful that all this would just suddenly subside and we would have nothing to worry about.

Daylight arrived and whilst the water continued to rise during the morning, it was quite slow. I had a busy work day planned so decided to get on with some important business calls. I would have to try and figure out the electricity situation later.

Around lunchtime my wife ran in from the garden wildly signaling for me to get off the phone, water had suddenly started flowing into our already flooded garden from next door, it was running like a fast stream. This was becoming serious!

There was no way to stop the flow, as the day progressed the water just got deeper and deeper. Fortunately my engineering background enabled me to isolate one of the circuits that was tripping the main fuse box on the electrics, so I was at least able to have some lights in the house. Unfortunately though I was less successful with the electric socket circuit and the central heating, which meant we were without electric sockets downstairs in the house and therefore meant we had no appliances in our kitchen, including the fridge and freezer.

It was now looking serious, I knew I would have to give in and go and buy a pair of Wellington boots! The fish were already escaping into the garden, some of them I’d had for around twenty years, making them pretty irreplaceable. Fortunately I’d already moved the car to higher ground further along the road so I was able to go to the nearest town. I saw some scary sights on the way, parks that were now lakes and houses that looked even more under threat than ours.

Unfortunately things were to get worse. It soon became apparent that the people who usually panic buy all the bread in the supermarkets whenever there’s a whisper of anything other than normal happening in their miserable, sad lives, also panic buy Wellington boots when it rains a lot! Everywhere had sold-out, the fishing tackle shop was my last chance, surely he had a size 7 (EU41). He said he only had size 13 left (EU mucho grande), which would suggest panic buyers don’t have large feet. However, that aside, for someone who is a size 7 on a good day, a size 13 was seriously not an option. Surely he had something in a 7, maybe in the back of the shop?………Wow, he did! From the depths of his storeroom he brought a pair of, well, something vaguely resembling Wellingtons!!??  They were designed (as he explained enthusiastically) to withstand temperatures of -30c and had a special neoprene sock and polystyrene lining. Despite them being so weirdly shaped that I couldn’t even tell which foot they went on, I decided to take them, trying very hard not to show too much desperation in my voice in case he put the price up even more. Trying to feel pleased with my purchase and content in the knowledge that I could now go extreme fishing whenever I wanted, I set off for home via MacDonalds’ for a drive-through, to feed my wife and son who I’d left, quite by coincidence, extreme fishing in my own back yard in an attempt to re-capture our now escaped Koi carp!!!

Behind every cloud!

Behind every cloud!

Despite struggling to stand up in my practically unsinkable polystyrene-lined Wellingtons, I was able to join the team and safely round up the prize Koi. Unfortunately a couple of them were missing, doing their ‘born free’ bit I guess, but most of them were safe and sound in a holding tank. This was clearly just a temporary measure with no spare pump or aeration system to keep them alive for long. My final check that day as to the level of the water since the morning produced some alarming figures, at this rate I wasn’t even sure if we had eight hours left to have a decent night’s sleep.

That night my son went to stay at his girlfriend’s house down the road, they were just as much at risk as us but still had heating and hot water so who could blame him.

My wife and I decided to sleep in a downstairs bedroom on Thursday night, strangely the desire to be immediately aware of any water coming into the house seemed to outweigh any risks of drowning in my sleep. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best night’s sleep either of us had ever had and boy, have I had some sleepless nights, especially with my prostate! I remember getting up during the night to go to the bathroom and when I put my legs over the side of the bed to stand up I was convinced I was going to stand in water, it was terrifying.

Thankfully there wasn’t any water, not yet at least! I went back to bed and began thinking about a cancer patient I had cared for many years before who had kindly told me I would never be out of my depth in response to me apologizing to him for not doing more for him and admitting that I felt out of my depth at times. If he could only see me now! Again I was finding myself in a situation where I really didn’t know what to do.  Despite weeks of rain, until earlier today I didn’t even have the foresight to buy a pair of Wellingtons! If the rain kept falling I would be quite literally ‘out of my depth’! (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 may 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 the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Flood – 2014 (1)

February 4, 2014

Part One

Captain Gilligan

Captain Gilligan

It all began on Tuesday 7th January 2014. It was my son’s birthday and the last day of the festive break, which every year taints the celebratory mood we should all be in for his day. Being born in June myself I have always felt sorry for people whose birthdays fall just after Christmas, probably the most depressing time of the year, until of course I read ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell and realized it was probably my classmates at school who were born in January and were therefore six months older than me that took my rightful place in the school football team!  That and the fact that I was crap at football!

Suffering the usual shock following a three week vacation with the realization  that tomorrow I would have to be up at 6.00am and adopt the work mode approach to life at an already depressing, cold and wet time of year, I decided to distract myself and take my dog Bracken for a walk to check on the level of The River Thames at the end of the road.

For the past few weeks the weather had been atrocious, after a dry start to December it seemed hardly a day had passed without a deluge of rain or horrendous winds in some part of the UK so I knew the river would be high.

Before we reached the river, which is about 400 yards from our house, Bracken dug his heals in and refused to go any further despite not being able to see the river yet. After unsuccessful attempts to coax him down the path leading to the slipway I gave up and decided to walk around the neighborhood. Good job I did. Already the river had burst its banks and had flooded many of the gardens that back on to it. I’d never seen anything like it before. As we walked around the block I felt a huge amount of sympathy for the poor residents, many of whom looked like they were evacuating their homes, I felt sorry for them and for the many people who had not had heating or electricity in their homes in other parts of the country over Christmas. It helped me stop sulking about having to go back to work the next day.

As Bracken and I walked further down the street at the back of our house the water became deeper. Before we bought our house in 2004, we had done the necessary research and knew that the house hadn’t been affected during the last flood in 2003, so I was relatively calm and assumed this was probably what happened last time and that things would subside before I needed to worry. Despite my relative calm on returning home, I ventured out again before bedtime just to check we were safe and helped to move a Porche for a friend who lived closer to the river, which I did with great enthusiasm….and caution! By bedtime I was certainly distracted from work and keeping things nicely in perspective. (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 may 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 the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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