From the eye of the storm
We spent the day before the great storm at the seaside, watching the waves crash over the promenade and feeling that weird shivery thrill of being right at the edge of the world, but also just three minutes away from a scaldingly hot bag of chips.
The day before I had been in London, which had been full of an excited pre-apocalyptic sense of impending doom. Mrs P at the corner shop joked that I was panic buying as I stocked up on bread and milk and reassured me that she would drop the shop keys through my letter box so I could let myself in should the worst happen.
Natasha the flower girl was selling her flowers off extra cheaply and as I carpet-bagged two bunches of roses for a fiver she warned, “There’s a hurricane coming,” explaining that she’d never seen a hurricane, but her Mum had told her all about the Great Storm of 1987, which happened, she explained, a couple of years before she was born.
I told her I remembered it really well, but left giving her the impression that I was still a kid at the time, or at the latest still at school, when in fact I remember tramping through the silent streets the next morning reporting on the devastation for the local paper I had just landed a job on.
That time we only had the TV and radio weather reports to rely – or not rely – on. This year, as we drove home, pushed along by an increasingly fierce following wind, we could follow the storm’s progress on our phones and join in the conversation about it on Twitter. My friend Joani tweeted that her kitchen looked like the set of the film Jumanji as she’d taken the precaution of bringing all her pots, including a small tree, inside. She was relieved, yet ever so slightly put out, that her efforts had been largely unnecessary pointing out, “I’ve had heavier sighs.”
I woke up the next morning dreading looking outside and was relieved to see nothing worse than the washing line down and a few plastic chairs turned over. It looked for all the world as if we’d had a particularly good party in the garden the night before. As opposed to the last time we’d had a particularly good party, when it looked as if Hurricane Katrina had gatecrashed.
Our greatest problem was ensuring that Ella could get back to uni up North in time. All the trains were cancelled and she couldn’t get through to find out when they would be back up. I left for work as she was trying to book a back-up coach ticket and fretting about being late.
Other parts of the country weren’t as lucky, with people swept into the sea and power lines down, and it shows that all the technology in the country can only mitigate the storm’s terrible power, it can’t stop it.
But the unsung heroes working for the power and train companies had been up and down the tracks like the Wichita Lineman and worked through the night to put things back to normal. Ella texted an hour later to say she was at the station about to get on to her train.
Reading the news about four families losing someone in the storm I texted her a kiss and thanked my lucky stars for having the luxury of nothing worse to worry about.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn