Dunkirk spirit

Inondations dans la région de ChablisThis winter’s floods, which after a brief pause seem to have returned with a vengeance, have inadvertently sparked a new form of eco-tourism.

It started on the Radio 4 soap The Archers, with the indomitable Ruth hitching up her tractor and heading North/South/Sideways – who knows where Borsetshire really is – to the flooded fields of Worcestershire to rescue a fellow farmer’s sheep and bring them back to Ambridge to dry out. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26262206).

The next morning the radio news was full of heart-warming tales of hairdressers and car salesmen temporarily giving up their day jobs to drive to the Somerset Levels to do their bit. It was hard not to find their enthusiasm infectious as they rolled up their sleeves to clear flooded fields, organise food donations or clear mud and sewage from dozens of homes. They spoke with the energy and zeal of those who, in previous times, would have driven lorries full of nappies and teddies to the orphanages of Romania or set sail for Dunkirk in a Hoseasons four-berther.

As the hairdresser revealed how she had helped track down washing machines, new clothes and even a helicopter – “It took me four days, but I got it” – for those who had lost everything in the floods, it was clear that the volunteers were gaining as much, if not more, from their efforts than those they were helping. One said as much, volunteering candidly – if somewhat recklessly – that if he got a call from his boss demanding he return from his unpaid leave right now he would turn him down on the grounds that he was more use driving a World War Two amphibious car across pools of slurry in Somerset than he was selling Skodas in Surrey. And clearly having more fun too.

I can fully understand the combination of Schadenfreude, goodwill and old-fashioned adventurousness that drives people to see and share the horrors of the floods while helping their fellow humans. Maybe we could hitch Doughnut up to a trailer and head for Somerset with the wet/dry vacuum cleaner so we can be a part of it too.  Apart from our increasingly leaky roof (it’s reached three rooms now, Ben the Ridiculously Busy Builder if you’re reading this, which I sincerely hope you aren’t with your workload), the only water damage we’ve suffered has been the tragic shrinking of my daughter’s precious Ralphy tartan kilt that I inadvertently put through the dryer. It started off as a micro mini, now it’s so small it would make a Barbie blush.

That’s what happens when you muck about with pure wool – take note Ruth Archer – I hope she makes sure those Worcester sheep don’t get too close to the Aga or she might have to return them in one of Ruairi’s dinky cars.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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