I was down at the outlaws last night to visit with them and fix us all a square meal . . . and get my irregular fix of television. SkyTV was running through the news on its 20 minute cycle showing people from Northern England loading sodden rubbish in dumpsters after Storm Desmond delivered the region a month's worth of rain in 24 hours. The pictures looked like Lymouth and Llyn Eigiau The North and West of Ireland experienced a similar deluge of spent tropical storm at the end of last week. That's probably 100mm; which is nothing like monsoon, but enough to overwhelm the existing infrastructure in numerous towns and villages build either side of rivers: which is most towns and villages. It took me back to 11th June 1993, when a similar amount of rain fell in Dublin. We lived then in an old farm house about 12km North of the city centre and I used to cycle in and out of work most days as the quickest, cheapest and fittest way of commuting to work. For some reason, possibly because it was raining stair-rods, that day I took the car into work - you could do that in those days: if you left home before 0745 you could get to town in 15-20 minutes. If you left at 0755, it would take 80 minutes and there would be nowhere to park.
At about 2pm, The Beloved phoned to say, that . . . if I wasn't too busy at the frontiers of science . . . there was a lot of water in the garden; and no sandbags. I jumped in the car and set off Northwards. I was possibly the last car to go out on the Malahide Road that afternoon that wasn't a jeep. At an intersection in Artane (4km out) a manhole cover had popped off a storm drain and a fountain 60cm h x 60cm diameter was bloofing up in the middle of the road. Where the road dips at Balgriffin cemetery (9km out), I had to drive on the sidewalk to avoid the road-wide knee-deep pool of water. By the time I got home, water was coming under the front door and we shifted ourselves to move dozens of books off the bottom shelf in the hallway. The water kept rising and we were about to start on the second shelf up, when I thought to open the kitchen door. The tide drained away with a whoosh and gurgle and for the next several hours we existed in a steady state: as much water was coming in as going out and we had wellington boots. So we slodged about for the rest of the evening, making dinner by candle-light and doing a little ineffectual shovelling outside.
As dark was falling, there was a knock at the door. A benighted motorist was looking to use our telephone. D'you remember when nobody had cell-phones? He was slack-jawed with apologies when he saw what we were dealing with, but he had his own interesting tragedy to relate. His daughter and her pal had booked a charter-flight holiday in the sun out of Dublin Airport and he and his wife had elected to drive them down from Belfast to say au revoir. Distracted by the chatter or the rain, he'd missed the turning for the airport and been forced to drive miles into town unable to turn around. The traffic was mayhem and he'd been trying for 2 hours to find an alternative route back to their destination. I knew he couldn't go further along out road because it was a metre deep about 500m West; he got indeterminate information from the airport about whether their flight was going to be on time and after 10 minutes he slipped out of our lives forever. I'm guessing the girls missed their connexion; I hope they had insurance; and I hope they didn't beat up on the poor old Dad. For us it was a bit of an adventure, we only lost a handful of books and the water wasn't contaminated with sewage. Could have been worse. A child got swept into a culvert that day and drowned about 5km away from our place. That raised questions in parliament. That was a tragedy.
Several years later, I turned up to my evening djembe circle and our teacher, Sinead "drum dance and body-percussion" O'Brien, seemed a little piano rather than her usual ebullient forte. Turned out that she had been flooded at the home she rented out in the wilds of County Wicklow. Her landlord, a farmer, had contrived to block one of the field drains on the face of the hill above her home and she had been inundated in her absence. She was in the middle of cataloging the results of a field trip to West Africa recording percussive material and songs on DAT tapes. Her filing system was the living room floor and her entire collection was ruined. She shrugged and said "It's a lesson in non-attachment . . . are we going to mope or are we going to drum?". I thought that was just wonderful: she was my Sensei.
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