The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (16)

August 1, 2014

(Cont……) Part Sixteen:

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

"We don't normally store things here!"

“We don’t normally store things here!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our kitchen before the floods

Our kitchen before the floods……..

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

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

……..and after the floods!

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

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

(to be continued………..)

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

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (15)

June 7, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Fifteen:

“Picnic Anyone?”

Unlikely flood heroes

Unlikely heroes in a flood!?

Throughout Tuesday 18th February 2014, a number of fire engine crews from all over the country descended on Wraysbury, dropping off large containers and various pieces of equipment. One particular unit of the Chorley and Lancashire Urban Search And Rescue Services called ‘Blue Watch’ arrived late afternoon and began setting up a huge industrial pumping station right outside our house. I watched with intrigue as they began laying hundreds of yards of hoses in and out of the field opposite and all the way down to the River Thames. It didn’t take long for curiosity to get the better of me so I went across to ask them if they would like a cup of tea or coffee. I always assumed firemen must get inundated with offers of tea where ever they go, so I was surprised when they jumped at my offer with immense gratitude ordering, six teas, four white, three with two sugars and one with three sugars, one black and one white with no sugar and two white coffees, both with one sugar!!?

Despite needing my wife to help me manage such a complex and diverse order, for some reason that still escapes me today, I chose to complicate things further and introduce another component into the order. I decided to see if the boys from Chorley fancied some of my bulk-supply of Picnic bars.

As they got stuck into their Picnic bars I was a bit surprised and disappointed to hear that despite coming all the way from Lancashire to help out our little village of Wraysbury, they had not been offered a single cup of tea all day.

Picnic BarHaving broken the ice by demonstrating some good old fashioned hospitality, I asked them “So, just what exactly are you doing here?” Without hesitation, they told me “We’re going to try and empty the water from the field opposite and pump it back into the river” This sounded pretty ambitious to me, “It is a very big field, how long do you think that will take?” I asked. “Difficult to say, probably 2-3 days but we won’t know until we have the pumps up and running.” I left them to their work and told them if they don’t get inundated with offers of tea and coffee from the kind residents of Wraysbury, they should give me a shout, pointing to my house across the road.

Despite the EA’s miraculous ability a few days ago to lower the water levels by 7.5 inches (19cms), many pockets of deep water still surrounded several properties including my own. The water around our house was still about 12 inches (30cms) and had not moved over the past few days. It was clear we were in a low-lying area. I thought about asking my new friends from Chorley to come and look at my property to see if there was anything they could do to help. But decided not to, for fear of yet another refusal to help me.

I soon became familiar with the shift pattern of Blue Watch as I continued to meet their demands of tea, coffee and my precious Picnic bars! They worked tirelessly maintaining their pumps and checking the field opposite to monitor their progress. They worked round the clock with another crew, disappearing after eight hours only to return eight hours later to start another shift. Both teams kept this up for a full 72 hours.

Soon we were supplying both crews with tea, coffee and Picnic bars. One evening, we had seven firemen standing in our flooded kitchen drinking their beverages! One of the firemen commented on how deep the water was in our garden. I agreed and changed the subject saying “It must be a bit strange for you guys to have water as the enemy?” They must have heard that one before because no-one laughed.

The following day after their eight hours of rest Blue Watch returned. Once they had checked on the pumps and had consumed their first tea, coffee and Picnic bar of the shift, they came to look at the garden again.

"It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!"

“It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!”

They told me they would probably finish with the field shortly and would be returning to Chorley. One of them said that they had told their shift supervisor about our hospitality and how deep the water was around our house. “We asked if we could use our big pumps to try and drain your water out but have been told we can’t”.

Despite being disappointed at the news I thanked them for helping our village and wished them well. “We are not going yet”, one of them said, “Not until we have tried to empty your garden!” I wondered how, if they had been told not to. He continued, “I may be confused but I think our supervisor only said we couldn’t use the big pumps.” he smiled “So, we will just have to beg steal and borrow what equipment we need”. I was really touched.

Within 20 minutes all six of them returned with different pieces of machinery and piping. They had borrowed hoses from the London fire crews, a water pump (which took four of them to carry) from the Somerset team, plus a few more bits and pieces that they weren’t sure who owned.

They spent at least two hours pumping out the garden, moving the heavy equipment around as water levels dropped and new low points were revealed. By the time they finished we could see our beautiful lawn again, albeit through a layer of crap from the flood. At last our dog Bracken could go in the garden, which was something he hadn’t been able to do for nearly three weeks.

I thanked the team from Chorley and gave them their last cups of tea and coffee, leaving them to fight over the remaining three picnic bars. Seventy-two picnic bars had gone in less than seventy-two hours!

Sadly, within three hours of waving them goodbye, the water began to fill back up in the garden as high as it was before. It was fun while it lasted, although sadly it would be a long time before anyone fancied having a Picnic on our lawn again!

(to be continued……….)

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

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (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 (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 (2)

February 8, 2014

It’s strange writing a post about the flood that happened almost four weeks ago, particularly considering I’ve spent most of today sand bagging again for a potential second flood of 2014………but let’s keep it chronological, so here goes. I hope you enjoy!

Part Two

On Wednesday morning I went to work pretty much as normal for a first day back, whilst it was still dark when I left the house I could see well enough to check there was no water in our garden.

During the day, my wife sent me a few up-date texts on the water levels. It was clear given the current weather forecast, there was going to be no let up soon. By early Wednesday evening the water was beginning to come up from the ground in the back garden, firstly with the appearance of an impressive puddle in the middle of the lawn, gradually getting deeper and more widespread as the evening went on. Although I was worried, I knew that life would have to go on and decided I should go to bed early to face another day in the office tomorrow. My wife offered to stay up to keep an eye on things and promised to wake me if she needed to.

At 4.30am she woke me. I felt dreadful and full of fear, I wasn’t even sure I could get up but I did.  The electricity in the house had gone off and about half of the back garden was now under water.  The butyl liner in our pond had began to do the strangest thing and inverted itself, pushing upwards and inwards with the pressure of the water around and below it. The fish were pretty distressed by this point and as the water rose in the garden it wouldn’t be long before they would be able to swim out and into the emerging lake that used to be the garden!

Oh Dear!!!!

Oh Dear!!!!

Needless to say, there was no danger of me being able to go back to sleep. I tried, by torchlight, to see if I could do anything to turn some electrics back on, but without success.  I decided it might be better to wait until daylight.

After being up since the early hours I decided to work from home on Thursday, we waited for dawn to arrive so we could at least see what we were doing with the electrics.  I think it was the longest couple of hours ever!  We remained hopeful that all this would just suddenly subside and we would have nothing to worry about.

Daylight arrived and whilst the water continued to rise during the morning, it was quite slow. I had a busy work day planned so decided to get on with some important business calls. I would have to try and figure out the electricity situation later.

Around lunchtime my wife ran in from the garden wildly signaling for me to get off the phone, water had suddenly started flowing into our already flooded garden from next door, it was running like a fast stream. This was becoming serious!

There was no way to stop the flow, as the day progressed the water just got deeper and deeper. Fortunately my engineering background enabled me to isolate one of the circuits that was tripping the main fuse box on the electrics, so I was at least able to have some lights in the house. Unfortunately though I was less successful with the electric socket circuit and the central heating, which meant we were without electric sockets downstairs in the house and therefore meant we had no appliances in our kitchen, including the fridge and freezer.

It was now looking serious, I knew I would have to give in and go and buy a pair of Wellington boots! The fish were already escaping into the garden, some of them I’d had for around twenty years, making them pretty irreplaceable. Fortunately I’d already moved the car to higher ground further along the road so I was able to go to the nearest town. I saw some scary sights on the way, parks that were now lakes and houses that looked even more under threat than ours.

Unfortunately things were to get worse. It soon became apparent that the people who usually panic buy all the bread in the supermarkets whenever there’s a whisper of anything other than normal happening in their miserable, sad lives, also panic buy Wellington boots when it rains a lot! Everywhere had sold-out, the fishing tackle shop was my last chance, surely he had a size 7 (EU41). He said he only had size 13 left (EU mucho grande), which would suggest panic buyers don’t have large feet. However, that aside, for someone who is a size 7 on a good day, a size 13 was seriously not an option. Surely he had something in a 7, maybe in the back of the shop?………Wow, he did! From the depths of his storeroom he brought a pair of, well, something vaguely resembling Wellingtons!!??  They were designed (as he explained enthusiastically) to withstand temperatures of -30c and had a special neoprene sock and polystyrene lining. Despite them being so weirdly shaped that I couldn’t even tell which foot they went on, I decided to take them, trying very hard not to show too much desperation in my voice in case he put the price up even more. Trying to feel pleased with my purchase and content in the knowledge that I could now go extreme fishing whenever I wanted, I set off for home via MacDonalds’ for a drive-through, to feed my wife and son who I’d left, quite by coincidence, extreme fishing in my own back yard in an attempt to re-capture our now escaped Koi carp!!!

Behind every cloud!

Behind every cloud!

Despite struggling to stand up in my practically unsinkable polystyrene-lined Wellingtons, I was able to join the team and safely round up the prize Koi. Unfortunately a couple of them were missing, doing their ‘born free’ bit I guess, but most of them were safe and sound in a holding tank. This was clearly just a temporary measure with no spare pump or aeration system to keep them alive for long. My final check that day as to the level of the water since the morning produced some alarming figures, at this rate I wasn’t even sure if we had eight hours left to have a decent night’s sleep.

That night my son went to stay at his girlfriend’s house down the road, they were just as much at risk as us but still had heating and hot water so who could blame him.

My wife and I decided to sleep in a downstairs bedroom on Thursday night, strangely the desire to be immediately aware of any water coming into the house seemed to outweigh any risks of drowning in my sleep. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best night’s sleep either of us had ever had and boy, have I had some sleepless nights, especially with my prostate! I remember getting up during the night to go to the bathroom and when I put my legs over the side of the bed to stand up I was convinced I was going to stand in water, it was terrifying.

Thankfully there wasn’t any water, not yet at least! I went back to bed and began thinking about a cancer patient I had cared for many years before who had kindly told me I would never be out of my depth in response to me apologizing to him for not doing more for him and admitting that I felt out of my depth at times. If he could only see me now! Again I was finding myself in a situation where I really didn’t know what to do.  Despite weeks of rain, until earlier today I didn’t even have the foresight to buy a pair of Wellingtons! If the rain kept falling I would be quite literally ‘out of my depth’! (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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