Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I thought I'd better give theThames a quick mention.
Those of you that know me, and know what I do for a living, might begin to appreciate I'm, (how can I put it politely? I can't!), BLOODY busy at the moment.
The Thames is on flood alert, my road is on flood alert, Reading is on flood alert, and even my office is on flood alert.
I have had one day off in the past 17, and this week, when it ends for me on Thursday morning at 7am (ish) I will have done well over 90 hours work, all at night.

I am liasing with all the emergency services, the armed forces, the met office, ministers, local and national media (including the very 'smashy and nicey' Howard Hughes from Smooth FM - he's a hoot!) and of course, very, very concerned members of the public, about the Great Floods of The Summer of 2007, I'm even advising residents on our street in a non-professional way, if you follow my drift.
It is generally accepted now, that these are WORSE than those of the winter of 1947 - that's really saying something.

Parts of Reading have started to flood this afternoon, and the levels are expected to peak at 04:00am tomorrow morning - when I'm alone in the office.
Anna and I have moved most of our possessions upstairs, weighed down the manhole cover in the back garden and bought some 'sandbags' (compost sacks), with which to protect the doors. All that remains is to pop plugs in sinks and weigh them down too.

In common with most incidents like this, the media have wanted their story and have sensationalised this out of all proportion. Allegedly a "huge surge of water is roaring down the Thames, ready to lay waste to Reading tonight".
The coppers haven't helped either, telling people in Oxford and Abingdon recently that they are "about to die" (quote - honest!) and then of course, there are the local councils and their staff, which are about as much use as bicycle is to a fish.

Well. I'm not going to give anyone a professional opinion about what will happen tonight.
I'll give you a personal opinion though.

Parts of Caversham in Reading will flood. Some (around 50? max) properties will take on a few inches of water. Kings Meadow and the flood plains around Reading will flood - thats for sure. My office will not though, even though it's built on the side of Kings Meadow.
The large volume of water travelling down the river (its taken this long to filter down from the Cotswolds) will push the low drains, drain covers, manholes and sewers right to capacity alongside the river, but I don't expect any backing up of drains etc... where we are, a mile from the river.
Some people have sandbagged their front doors on our road, and we'll do our back door before I leave for work tonight, but that is purely preparing for the worst, yet expecting the best.

I'll tell you what I can see on the river at present. I won't include any photos - they don't do it any justice - unless I had 'comparison photos', which I don't.
All the waterfowl are on the banks. All apart from the Swans that is, as they are just about powerful enough to swim against the flow - just.
The river looks in full spate. Milk chocolate brown and flowing very, very, very fast indeed. I'd normally not have a problem swimming against the stream, (I've done it many times), but not at the moment. I'd be swept away in a second.
The Caversham Weir is fully open, and incredibly high, and around the lock (where my office is), I reckon we've got approximately 3 foot of slack. (But then again, that could disappear overnight).
I haven't seen large lumps of debris racing by though. Not like I did in the 'Fens', when I remember another flood on other boating holiday. No trees, sofas, caravans etc...
Maybe that will happen tonight.

The simple fact is that with such a large amount of water in the Thames and her tributaries at present, the river authorities, have no option but to control the flow in stages downstream, effectively flooding different sections of the river over a period of time. Nature has the ultimate control of course, but measures can and are being put in place (like they always are in times like this) by the Lock Keepers etc... to keep damage to a minimum.

It is all rather impressive, and somewhat exciting, although to be honest, I'm ready to stop on Thursday and disappear to Kefalonia for a fortnight, to toast some marshmallows on their forest fires.

Thats what I see, anyway, although if I'm wrong, do turn on the news tomorrow morning, and watch me (only me I'm afraid), get evacuated by Sea King Helicopter live on air!
I've never been in a helicopter....

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