Archive for July, 2007

The River Rises

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

I’m often told that I live in a beautiful place and it is true. One of the most attractive things about Grandpont is the proximity to the river which is about three minutes walk from where I live. Every morning I walk over Folly Bridge by Salter’s Yard from where ‘on a golden afternoon’Alice and her sisters set off on the boat trip which became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and on golden afternoons I can become quite sentimental about that story although, in truth, I never much enjoyed it when I was young.

It is also the spot where Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog reached the end of their journey and then turned back east for home and London. That I did enjoy when I read it and occasionally read a chapter or two to remind me of those jolly Victorians interspersing the jokes with the lyrical

‘The river – with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the grey-green beech- trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows o’er the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to the lilies, wantoning with the weirs’ white waters, silvering moss-grown walls and bridges, brightening every tiny townlet, making sweet each lane and meadow, lying tangled in the rushes, peeping, laughing, from each inlet, gleaming gay on many a far sail, making soft the air with glory – is a golden fairy stream’ wrote JKJ before making the perfectly reasonable point that in the rain the river is ‘a spirit-haunted water through the land of vain regrets’.

Well, the river is currently being extremely tempestuous and, in the case of Grandpont, rather a tease. On Friday the town ran with water and vain regrets were everywhere under steel skies disgorging curtains of rain. By Saturday, the Windrush, normally a twinkling waterway, had bigged it up and flooded Witney and rushed through woods and across fields at the edge of the Cotswolds causing innocent motorists (us and many others) extreme inconvenience. We spent about three hours attempting to return to Oxford after lunch at Rissington. The main road, the A40 was closed and each avenue we attempted seemed to end in lakes across the road, often ornamented with an abandoned car. The evening light grew darker, the rain continued, we drove about 60 miles out of our way and then the severe flood warnings were announced.

It was quite unnerving to be driving around country roads, not sure if they would lead us home and to hear that our area was about to be given a severe warning which means risk to property and life. We had to get home to move our valuables upstairs. We could almost feel the encroaching waters and felt we were battling the clock. But we did get home and then worked until past midnight to clear rooms. Then we retired to bed.

This morning was sunny and fine and everyone waited for the advertised flood. The river was brown and thick and running hideously fast with eddies and flows, grabbing branches and buffeting them downstream, past a narrow boat jammed against a mooring post, the stern sinking low in the water. All around though there was a certain cheerfulness, no doubt encouraged by the sun but also because we could do nothing but wait and see. It must have been like that in the ‘phony war’ in 1939. I gather the day war was declared it was very sunny and I imagine that having heard the forecast of menace people did as we did and got on with normal life but with a queasy foreboding. I still have that sense and will know in about 90 minutes if the river will invite itself into my hall across the newly laid wood floor and into my new kitchen, making a thorough mess of everything and behaving badly. We shall just have to wait for 48 hours or so and meanwhile, the war time spirit is flourishing as we gather round the radio in an upstairs bedroom surrounded by most of our furniture, electrical equipment, (apart from the kitchen which will have to be sacrificed) and every ornament and photograph we could pack. The best scenario is that we take it all downstairs again on Tuesday but there is a little, completely idiotic, part of me which will be disappointed if the floods don’t come. If they do, then the year or so it will take to recover our house will no doubt cure me of that particular stupidity.


Trip cancelled

I’ve never much taken to Dave Cameron although I’m told by friends who are constituents of his in Witney that he is very personable. I think I liked him more when I’d heard about him rather than from him. I can’t say quite why I’m rather repelled but I think it might be that picture in the Bullingdon Club, which frankly I always thought was rather more worrying than the possibility that he might have smoked dope at Oxford. The Bullingdon Club as far as I can gather is a frightfully exclusive Oxford undergraduate club which, one could easily believe is purely devoted to wrecking restaurants. I think Evelyn Waugh was a member and had a go at thrashing the Spread Eagle at Thame but certainly there was a restaurant incident about four years ago reported in the Oxford Times.

Dave C sits for Witney who’s previous MP was Shaun Woodward, who famously crossed the floor and now is in Government. He had the inconvenience of buying a house in St Helen’s his new constituency in the North West but he is a very wealthy man and has been much lampooned for having a butler

Aaanyway -the unfortunate Dave seems to have adopted Tony Blair’s mantle just as ordinary punters (numbers surveyed =1) have sighed with relief that the original owner has cleared off to sort out the Middle East and we are left with a proper, old-fashioned Prime Minister. Rather unfortunate I’d have said. Dave was widely advertised as going to Rwanda for the weekend to chivvy up the Conservative charity workers there but I see he put off the trip – probably the very wet denizens of Witney (who have had a really horrid time) expected their MP to front up in wellies – and so he did.