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 (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 (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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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (5)

February 28, 2014

Part Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Just what has he done to deserve this?”

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

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

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

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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