It sounded like someone was throwing carpet tacks at the window, as another day dawned with more rain driven on high winds. The arch outside the front door formed a wind tunnel that neither dog was prepared to risk. A previous head of P.E. when asking if I was really planning to go ahead with a hockey match in some unpromising conditions said “I wouldn’t put a cat out in this”. Not being a great cat lover, this is precisely the type of weather I would be happy to place a cat. I’m a little easier on my dogs and let them off going out until the squall had passed.
But the forecasts continue with their storm-tossing, rain-drenching theme: weather systems lining up along the jet stream like a cyclonic taxi rank, waiting to drop more unwanted contents on to the sodden UK turf. And Somerset has taken more than its fair share, as the news coverage has shown.
There is a sense of unreality when you see familiar places on the national news. We are fortunate enough to be away from the affected areas, which are in a part of the county which has always had a reputation for being a little “special”. The residents of the levels (Levellers?!) have suffered from an uncomplimentary reputation for being insular and different from the rest of us. My youthful impressions were of a place with its own identity, fixed in my childish imagination as being full of basket weavers and peat cutters: the willows and the deep rich soil being the main natural resources. I never did understand how somewhere that was partially below sea level could remain dry and imagined small children at Bridgewater standing with one of their twelve fingers in a dike.
The only effects we have suffered are a couple of inches of water in the OM’s cellar after the rain fell so fast it came through the walls of his basement. Other than that, it is the usual towels on window sills to stop the leaking windows, but of no consequence when you see the sandbags on the levels. When the sun sets in the west we can see the sun reflecting off the vast expanse of what is more like an inland sea. Like a distant warning of global warming, one feels perhaps it is only a matter of time before we are living in a beach front property.
The news coverage has kept us intrigued and amused with Somerset being put on the map (just as it is being cartographically erased) as national TV fights to get the latest angle on submerged farmland. The shrill call for dredging the rivers is no doubt justified, although as my osteopath pointed out to me while clicking my spine into shape, dredging merely provides a larger reservoir into which water can drain from the land. It does not get into the sea any quicker, as it still has to get out the same sized river mouth. But at least the water can sit in the river (and ditches for that matter) rather than on the land and in people’s front rooms. But one can also assume that this winter’s rain would have caused flooding, whatever. It is the “normal” years that one would expect to avoid the sight of tear-stained folk worrying about their livestock and possessions.
But judging by the accents of the interviewees, if nothing else the TV coverage has shown us that not all residents of the levels have twelve fingers and play the banjo. No, there are normal folk (incomers no doubt) down there, who drive Chelsea tractors and keep ponies for fun.