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 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 (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 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 (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 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 (8)

April 5, 2014

Part Eight

Help from Heroes?

Su Burrows had done a great job asking for help

Su Burrows had done a great job asking for help

Su Burrows had been on the Channel 4 news program with me the night before and had again been doing a great job asking for help and telling David Cameron to provide some. People were now looting our sand bags, surely we would be getting some help soon, albeit a bit late!

I had set the alarm early for Tuesday morning, 11th February 2014 (not that I had needed an alarm for the past month), in order to have time for my mandatory five cups of coffee before tackling the day ahead. Right on cue, at 9.00 am, two very nice people, Jon and Hannah, turned up just as I was carrying out my daily inspection of our homemade, ecologically friendly, log dam at the entrance to the drive. They were from BBC Panorama.

Believe it or not, in the short two hours since I had got out of bed, I’d actually forgotten they were coming. I guess that’s something to do with the trauma of a flood, or Alzheimer’s!!

By now the water was in all the ground floor rooms.  The laminate flooring that I had meticulously laid, plank by plank, in each room over the past ten years (much to the detriment of my knees), had become like a floating pontoon. It was the weirdest sensation as you walked on it. Jon and Hannah were extremely apologetic as they stumbled their way across it, causing bow-waves as they went and splashing water up the walls. “Perhaps we should just go, you guy’s have suffered enough without putting up with us trampling around your home.” Jon said. “Don’t worry” I replied, “People need to see this, I can’t believe how well you’ve timed it.

"I will not cry on national TV, I will not cry......"

“I will not cry on national TV, I will not cry……”

For four hours they patiently listened to our frustrations and stories about Bracken and his chemotherapy and the numerous attempts we’d made to rescue our prize fish. They filmed all around the house and interviewed my wife and me for what seemed like hours before politely saying that we’d probably had enough and they left.

All the time they were in the house, the water had continued to rise gradually, which made for some dramatic film footage but did little to help my blood pressure. (BBC Panorama interview)

I was relieved and pleased with how the interview had gone, it did us both good to be able to get some things off our chests and tell someone who genuinely wanted to hear just how horrendous the past month had been. Despite crying in front of the camera, I was strangely beginning to feel some relief!!!! Crazy as it sounds, the fact that the water had entered our home now meant we could perhaps stop relentlessly trying to prevent it. Perhaps now, for the first time in four weeks, we could start to relax a little…………no chance! The Army were on their way…….from Afghanistan!!!?

"The biggest Army trucks I had ever seen"

“The biggest Army trucks I had ever seen”

In what were the biggest army trucks I’d ever seen, soldier after soldier began to appear, without wellington boots but eager to help. Unfortunately it became increasingly difficult from my perspective to see what help those soldiers were bringing to our plight as they were directed by their seniors to sandbag anything that was wet. Indiscriminately they began to sandbag around drains, cars and properties that were neither near flooding nor occupied anymore. The whole process was putting increasing strain on my eco-friendly dam as the water rather predictably tried to seek the path of least resistance, straight under my dam!

I’d been reluctant over the past few weeks to ask for help, assuming there were far more needy people than me that the emergency services could assist.  However, I was beginning to struggle, I didn’t know what more I could do on my own with no more sandbags to improve my flood defences, so I asked the soldiers as they passed in their rather large truck, “Is it possible you could give me a hand with my dam?  As you are sandbagging other properties the water is being diverted into my driveway which is at a low point in the road.”

One look and the soldier agreed with me, he told me he would report back to command control and someone would be back to help me shortly. Thank goodness, at last we were going to get some physical help with sandbagging! ………..(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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