The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (16)

August 1, 2014

(Cont……) Part Sixteen:

“You have two days to move home starting………..now!”

"We don't normally store things here!"

“We don’t normally store things here!”

We knew the flood would impact on our lives for some time to come but we naively hoped as the water subsided and things started to dry out that we could perhaps begin to get back to some sort of normality……how wrong we were!

Despite our determination to stay in our beloved home through the recovery process, we were eventually persuaded by our insurance company to look for temporary accommodation. We were told that drying the house would require many industrial-sized de-humidifiers working 24 hours a day for around six to seven weeks. Even though our ears had pretty much become desensitized to noise as a result of living under the Heathrow flight path for the past 10 years, we knew that the noise itself would be reason enough to move out for a while.

Within a short time of looking for nearby houses to rent we discovered the ‘panic-buyers’ who bought all the wellington boots at the first sign of rain apparently were also ‘panic-renters’. It turned out much to my surprise that some of the insurance companies had received phone-calls from residents in flooding areas requesting re-housing and due to the scale of the flooding the companies were just checking policyholders postcodes and then agreeing to 6 month leases. However, when the floodwater eventually subsided and the surveyors arrived to assess the damage, they discovered that some of the ‘panic-renters’ hadn’t actually been flooded and were able to move back home! This undoubtedly contributed to the scarcity of rental properties we were experiencing. During many visits registering with estate agents we experienced the indignity of being considered undesirable tenants, firstly because we had our dog Bracken (who I have to say is much better behaved than many children I see these days!) and secondly, because we could only agree to a six-month lease at this time.

We soon got disheartened and frustrated, as we had to look further afield. Eventually we found a house in Old Windsor, which had just come onto the market. If we were successful we would be the landlord’s first tenants. Dogs were allowed and a short-term lease was not a problem.

Within ten minutes of viewing the property, we decided to take it. Although it wasn’t within walking distance of our house it did have a large garden and was unfurnished that meant it could accommodate most of our furniture that we had fought so hard to save from the flooding.

Once the insurance company had agreed that the rental price was in line with the value of our own house we had an agonizing wait for contracts to be exchanged and agreed before we were certain of moving. We hoped it would not take long as the drying process could not start until we were out of our house, besides staying there was really taking its toll, the sight of everything in disarray, the compromised electricity and being surrounded with damp, was only adding to our desperation.

Finally, on Tuesday 11th March 2014 we were told we would be moving, on Friday 14th March 2014. Packing should begin the day before that on Thursday 13th March. Ready, steady…..go!

Our kitchen before the floods

Our kitchen before the floods……..

As if the floods themselves hadn’t caused enough stress, we spent the next two days trying to sort out which of our belongings could go with us to our temporary accommodation and what needed to go into storage. I have to say I don’t know anyone who has had to move out of a home they’ve lived in for ten years, with only two days notice, it was horrific!

........and after the floods!

……..and after the floods!

We would never have achieved it after what we had been through, were it not for the excellent service provided by the removal men. We were so impressed with them we booked them for our return trip, although I’m not so sure they were particularly happy at the prospect!

I doubt anyone can really understand and fully appreciate the distress that comes with being forced out of your home and watching everything you have worked so hard for being gradually destroyed. The Environment Agency for one will surely never fully appreciate the suffering they caused that fateful moment they decided to do whatever they did with the Jubilee Relief River. Questions remain unanswered!

(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

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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 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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