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 (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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