July 29, 2007
Another view of the floods ....
A friend has agreed to my posting an e-mail he has circulated on his experience of the flood - and those of a few of his friends and colleagues. Certainly gives another view ....
I know that as I write, some of you reading may have had a worse time than me in the floods, I hope that things are getting better
I have just been out to the garden to fetch a bucket of rainwater to flush the toilet, it really is strange to think that we will be without water for up to two weeks, it really is something that you take for granted. Kate has reminded me that on her gap year she had to fetch all of her water from a well, for others in different parts of the world that is their way of life - but it is not what we expect in Cheltenham Spa.
At Foxmoor we are lucky in that we still have electricity and we have no flood water in the house, some people have flood water in their house nothing coming out of the taps and no electricity. For those of you in the UK you will probably have seen the news that the fire brigade and the military managed to save our electricity sub station, if that had flooded the 400,000 of us that have no water would also have no power.
The train line that I use, Hereford to Oxford, then on through Didcot, Reading and to London Paddington is closed. Much of the line is badly damaged between Worcester and Oxford, no trains expected until 6th August when I will be in Cyprus. The line from Oxford to Didcot is still flooded. Yesterday I drove to the office in London, from there people find it difficult to understand the severity of what is happening, whenever we see events on the television they give us a little window on the world, but in 90 seconds no feel for what it is really like. The rain was very heavy on Friday and even those without floods coming up were affected by surface water, I heard of friends in Kensington and Fulham (west London - for my Russian readers!) who had water in their flats.
Friday was a very strange day, as the rain and flooding stated to develop it was very difficult to understand just how severe it was. I had to visit a Visa operations site in Basingstoke, when I opened the front door I didn't really want to take the bins to the end of the drive as the weather was so heavy........I spoke to Nigel Brammar and Neal Manners who some readers will know, we had planned to get together at the weekend to watch some motor cycle racing at Prescott in the Cotswolds, I suggested we might cancel........I am sure that they thought that I was being dramatic. I set off for Basingstoke in steady rain. I missed the turn in Basingstoke and had to go a little further around the ring road, I drove through a huge puddle with two cards already abandoned, as a result of my error I had to turn around and go through the puddle, this was at about 10.30, three hours later when we drove past the same location, the police had closed the road, there were six abandoned cars and somebody wading through the water that was up to their chest.
When I had arrived for the site visit, I had to put on the hat and coat that I keep for in the car for dog walking on Cleeve Hill, not really suitable business attire, the rain was really very very heavy. Relecting yesterday (Tuesday) a colleague at Visa, Harin, said that rain like that is common in the Indian sub-continent, the monsoon season...........but Hampshire is not supposed to have a monsoon season……….especially in July!
Lunch on Friday involved going to a lovely pub, an old mill......by the time that we got there the mill stream was in the car park and the landlord had the carpets up, he took us to an upstairs room and served lunch, the rain had stopped and the sun was out, there was no feeling of how awful things were not far to the north.
I left Basingstoke at 4pm hoping to be back in Cleeve by 6ish, it is only about 85miles (130km) it was then that the adventure started! Tom called me and told me to find a hotel for the night. My journey actually took about 8.5 hours, for those that know the route, I knew that the road from the M4 past Swindon was difficult and so I tried to go across country via Hungerford, Lambourne and Farringdon – normally very pretty, but huge puddles and lots of abandoned cars. I made it to somewhere between Wantage and Farringdon but got turned back by the police as the road was deemed too dangerous for anything except tractors and land rovers. I had already made a 20 mile detour via Wantage to drop off two decorators who had swamped the engine on their van, one of them had tried to fix it and his mobile phone had fallen from his pocket into the water – really not his day………..he just wanted to be dropped at a pub!!
So having been turned back I had to go all of the way back to the M4 and onto the A419, the traffic was nose to tail, I made 12 miles in two hours and thought that it would be like it all of the way to Cheltenham, another 30 miles, but I suddenly came across the problem about 200 metres of surface water about 2ft (600mm) deep and everybody proceeding with great caution, once past that I was able to knock off the 30 miles in about 45 minutes, until I reached Cheltenham. An extraordinary scene awaited me, cars abandoned everywhere at all sorts of angles, I was lucky, I managed to stay on the east side of the race course, drive through Prestbury and get home. Prestbury was amazing, the main street was like a shallow river, but passable with care. While all of this was going on James was trying to get home from the east, he traveled down the A46 until it was impassable he somehow made his way to the A40 and got into Cheltenham from the east. As some of you know he is qualified in Agriculture and is used to driving on all terrains, his language when describing some of the driving that he had seen could be described as agricultural!! In the meantime my friend Karen was traveling from Alnwick (close to the Arctic circle!) with son William and dog Scruffy to spend the weekend with us, she made it to Birmingham by 4.00pm, but the next 38 miles (64km) took her 15.5 hours as the M42 and M5 ground to a halt with the severity of the flooding. She was able to walk Scruffy on the M42 and the M5. She had plenty to eat and drink but was afraid to, without going into detailed biology, she was more comfortable being thirsty and hungry than dealing with the consequences in a lady like manner – observed by three lines of stationary traffic. It is a strange thing, we all felt guilty going to bed at about 2.00am knowing that a friend was stuck in a car on the motorway. Many of you will have seen the M5 on news bulletins.
When Karen arrived, she had a sleep and we had a lovely Saturday with a meal at the pub in the evening, we knew that the floodwater was serious at Tewks but it often is, it was only on Sunday that we really realised just how bad things were.
A neighbour knocked on the door saying that her son was working with some engineers who were trying to save a pumping station, we should fill a few pans, we did and went off to the pub for a lunchtime drink, lots of talk about the water, but the opinion was that it was scare mongering. Home, and an agreement to have a BBQ in the evening, in spite of the rain Sunday was a great evening. Not much food, the local Tesco had been stripped bare, we talked about journeys on Friday. My neighbour Dean and I were still not sure if we should head for the station on Monday morning, him for the 6.40 and me for the 7.18, the website said that journeys would be subject to delay, after another bottle we decided that it was best to work from home than to stand on a station waiting for a train that may not come. The last bottle of red was a good investment, we have a 40 minute drive to the station and may well not have made it – if we had at the time of writing the train has still not come and is not expected until 6th August, that’s a long delay even by First Great Western standards.
During Monday the water stopped coming out of the taps, which is where I started, fetching water from the garden. Earlier this morning I passed a convoy of eight army lorries being delivered to Cheltenham, we can collect 12 litres of water per household per day from the centre of the village, there are police there to prevent fights, we also have “bowsers” dotted all over the place with water that can be drawn off, it has to be boiled – which would have been a challenge for many of the electricity had gone as well. More on BBC website
It would be great to hear from anybody who is still with me and has not lost the will to live!
PS I am new to commuting, but have met and talked to some of my fellow travelers, I know frowned on in some commuting circles! One of them Alastair, a latent eccentric is writing a blog, am entertaining few minutes if you are at a loose end, I am featured……so are the floods – and Sid (because I know you will still be with me!) so are two RAF officers, one a former Z4 owner
The blog – www.trainfellows.blogspot.com
Posted by The Gray Monk at July 29, 2007 01:40 PM
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