Friday, July 27, 2007

Row, row, row your boat...

Hasn't this week been exciting? Floods, surges, sandbags... Yes indeed, if it hadn't been terrifying it would have been rather exhilerating. Luckily, the waters did not reach the Heloise-stronghold, although we did at one point make an emergency dash to the sandbag pick-up point. Filling and lugging sandbags in the rain was not pleasant but being flooded is hardly a picnic either, so I can't really complain.

So. National disaster, tragedy all round, lots of nice "human suffering" features on the BBC etc.

Predictably, this is where I'm going to stop being uncontroversial and start being a little critical.

1) Not really a national disaster. Yes it was terrible for the people whose homes were flooded. Yes it is horrible that they will have to wait 18 months until it gets sorted. Being without water is almost unimaginable and I am exceedingly glad that it didn't happen to me. However: the emergency services coped, some disasters were averted, water is being flown in, insurance will be paid. It was hardly Hurricane Katrina though. People aren't going to return to their homes a year later and discover dead bodies in wrecked houses, or realise they will never be able to go back to their city...

2) Far be it from me to detract from the (considerable) suffering of the fairly wealthy south, but it seems to me that the flooding of Hull, some weeks before this, was actually more disasterous. All the more so for being almost completely ignored. 17,000 homes in Hull were flooded and uninhabitable. That's quite a lot. And all we heard were people blaming the north for not being insured. Hardly the sympathetic treatment given to, say Tewkesbury (which I happen to be rather fond of).

3) News coverage was a bit gratuitous. Or should I say *is*. Whilst away (in the north) we discovered that Oxford was flooded and were informed by a breathless reporter, that the site of the Heloise stronghold was flooded. You can imagine the doom and panic this inspired - far away from home, unable to defend property etc etc. So much so, a long-suffering colleague agreed to cycle down and check it out. Oh the humiliation when it turned out the river had not even burst its banks. There's also been a bit too much badgering by news reporters, who seem to be out to win prizes for making people cry. "Everyone's been very kind" says an old lady. "But aren't you upset that all of your possessions are gone - things that can't be replaced" urges the sincere-eyed news reporter. Leave the old lady alone! Don't compound her misery by making her cry on national TV.

In summary - yes it is horrible and some poor people are going to have to endure the consequences for a long time. Let's not blow this out of proportion though. We in the UK are lucky enough to live somewhere where extremes of weather and natural disasters happen extremely rarely. Moping around feeling sorry for ourselves is hardly going to endear us to anyone.

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