A few years ago now we bought a house. A lovely house. A house that is on the small side but just perfect for us.
We love this house. We love the area we live in. We wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Unfortunately our house is on a flood plain. Many years ago when we bought the house this wasn't a big deal. 'Never flooded' they said when the searches raised the flood plain issue. Fair enough we thought. And bought it.
Last week we once again spent most the week on high alert, nervously watching the river levels, the ground water and the levels of the local lake and streams. They came up. We laughed them off. The Environmental Agency turned up and pumped a whole load of water away. The levels carried on coming up. The council dropped off sand bags for us. We thought about moving things upstairs but as we're in the middle of building works everything has been trashed anyway and as I hate our sofas I had no intention of moving them out of harms way. The local roads were shut because they were impassable and we waded to school (brilliantly, Britishly still open and revelling in stoically soldiering on throughout the drama). Then slowly, desperately slowly, the water levels began to fall and eventually we were taken off flood warning.
This isn't the first time this has happened since we moved here, and I doubt it will be the last, even the last this winter. The ground is sodden wet from summer and the water doesn't have anywhere else to go. So we sigh and put our trust in the flood defences installed by the council at great expense (worth every penny) and hope for the best.
But being flooded is a funny old thing. I always thought that being flooded would be quite dramatic. Lashings of rain. Torrents of water. But it isn't - not here at least. No, we get flooded days after the rain storms, when the water has time to seep into the rivers. So as we sandbag our doorsteps it isn't raining. Last time we did it our opera singer neighbours serenaded the street as our neighbours on the other side handed out champagne from their wedding days earlier. As no one actually had to deal with water in their property it turned out to be quite an entertaining afternoon.
Once the sandbags are down there is really nothing left to do except for wait. There's not much you can do really except hope the whole thing goes away. Obviously that doesn't stop us all panicking, rushing around, spreading rumours about what is happening, what is going to happen and then twirling around a bit more. But in the end we just have to wait. The waiting goes on for hours and days. And then eventually you think that maybe the water has gone down just a touch, and then it does.
Only it isn't over then. Because then you have to deal with The Rats. Flooded out of their homes they invade ours. I was shouting 'there's a rat in the kitchen, what am I going to do?' for real last week - whilst waving around a broom stick and trying to usher it outside the kitchen. Probably better than the slugs though with whom we fight an ongoing and losing battle.
We aren't going to move. We have still never been flooded. But it has come pretty close now on too many occasions. And for all the flood defences in the world, there isn't that much we can do about it.