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 (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 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 (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 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 (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 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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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (7)

March 29, 2014

Part Seven

The Longest Day

"A fish irrigation system better than the Jubilee Relief River"

“A fish irrigation system better than the Jubilee Relief River”

Monday morning, 10th February 2014, came far too soon for my liking with a phone call from a neighbour advising me that I might want to move my car. I had parked both cars up on the pavement at the front of our house, sure that at that height off the road they would be okay. The water was everywhere, it was running like a river along the road. I only just managed to open the car door without the water getting in. Thankfully I managed to drive to dryer ground and at the roadblock was told to take my car to the ‘safe’ flood car park in the playground at the local primary school. The main road was already impassable meaning a detour to get there. Safely parked, I sprinted as fast as I could in my chest-high waders to get the other car.

Both cars were parked nicely together in the playground complete with my contact details in the windscreen as I’d been instructed, so I felt some relief that at least the cars were safe, albeit half a mile ‘down river’ from my house. It was just 08.00am!

"Our worst fears were confirmed"

“Our worst fears were confirmed”

The rest of the day was spent re-checking things, particularly the dam at the entrance to the drive and transferring our prize Koi from their temporary holding tank, which although standing more than 2.5’ (>80cm) above the ground was now filling with dirty floodwater. We set up another two temporary holding tanks on the highest decking at the back of the house with a connecting aeration and filter system, no mean feat given the circumstances.

The rest of the day was filled by mostly doing TV interviews. First BBC London, two nice guys who only had Wellington boots on so could only interview me on the pavement outside the house. Then Channel 4, they were also nice and so were their Wellington boots, red I think! BBC Panorama also turned up (wearing waders) and asked if their team could come and talk to me later that day. At around 4.00pm I got a call from Channel 4 asking me if I would take part in a live TV debate with Jon Snow at 7.00pm. I agreed, I was so angry I just wanted to help ensure everyone knew what was going on in our poor village.

The whole operation so far was relying on the villagers themselves and volunteers and sand bags intended for us were being hi-jacked by some low life’s who were then trying to sell them on! We needed help.

I had heard that soldiers had been deployed to the neighbouring village of Datchet to protect it but no-one had come to Wraysbury, perhaps because we were already flooded? Perhaps the rumours were true, Wraysbury had intentionally been flooded to protect Windsor and Maidenhead, home of the Queen and The Fat Duck and numerous celebs and affluent residents. I’m led to believe the riverside brasserie in Bray, continued to serve lunch to the rich throughout the whole flooding period, amazing!

The water was well over 2’ [>60cm] deep at the front of the house and 3’ [>90cm] at the deepest point in the back garden (6’ [1.8m] if you stood where the pond used to be!) as I set off for my TV appearance. Our worst fears had been realized, it had just begun to come through the floor in one of our downstairs rooms. I was now in exactly the right frame of mind to meet Jon Snow. My interview was to take place at a makeshift venue by the local pub. I was really anxious as I made my way there, I wanted to make sure my head was clear and that I could get across all the points I wanted to make.

"It's Gilligan Jon, just like I told you 30 seconds ago .......as in Gilligan's Island!"

“It’s Gilligan Jon, just like I told you 30 seconds ago …….as in Gilligan’s Island!”

It wasn’t long before I realized I wasn’t really going to have much opportunity to speak or voice my concerns, I was clearly there as a token ‘flood victim’ with the debate being centered around the Environment Secretary (who wasn’t there in person), an MP and a representative from Greenpeace who talked some rubbish about climate change, talk about bad timing! To add insult to injury Jon Snow, who I have always admired, got my name mixed up with that of the Greenpeace guy on national television. How much more humiliating can all this get! I quickly corrected him though! Interview over, I met my wife to go and get something to eat in the pub. At about 10.00pm we waded home. Jon Snow meets Bruce GILLIGAN!

One more check before trying to go to sleep. We’d done everything we possibly could to protect our house and valuables.

The water level hadn’t altered much, all we could do now was hope and pray I guess! Oh yes, and ring BBC Panorama to tell them not to bother coming that night, I’d forgotten they’d called me earlier and were planning to get to me by 11.00pm.

Good news, the BBC Panorama camera team’s flight had been delayed so they asked if they could come the following morning instead.

………..(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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