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 (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 (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!

IMG_0112

“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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