The night after we left our friends in Sussex recently, they had to swim out of their house at 3am in the pitch black. It was Christmas Eve and my son had been helping his Godmother decorate the tree only three days earlier.
What my friends managed to rescue:
- Their dog
- Mobile phones
What they lost:
- All their furniture and soft furnishings
- All the tapestries she’s made over 25 years
- All their paperwork
- All their photographs
- Their house
We’d been invited to stay that night too, but had to get back as we’d made other arrangements. While we were there, the rain was pelting down, the field was getting waterlogged and my friend had to go and clear the culvert of driftwood a ten minute walk upstream. She went in up to her chest in freezing water both in the morning and the afternoon. Always been tougher than me. Since a new development had been built nearby, excess water hadn’t been able to flow away, and was diverted towards their house instead. The day we left, the rain stopped and the water started to go down so they weren’t worried. Just in case though, they parked their car a little up the drive on higher ground that evening.
That night it rained Biblically. At 3am there was six inches of water on the floor of their house. Within ten minutes, it was gushing in at waist height. It was pitch black and they had a panicky dog out of his depth. There was no time to bring anything upstairs like they had less than two years before. My friend said it was like the Titanic. It was all they could do to get out with their lives and swim against the torrential water in the dark to where the car was. Soaking wet, they drove a couple of miles away to a country pub that lets out rooms, and the lovely owner put them and their shocked, bedraggled dog up for the night.
My amazing friend, who I’ve know since we were at school aged seven, announced that “Yes, it’s a ******* nuisance but at least I’m not in the Philippines with the house blown away”. She also told my son that there are always those worse off than you. Just the sort of wisdom he’d never have taken on board if I’d said it, and as far as bravery goes, pretty impressive from someone who’s been made homeless for the second time in two years.
Since writing the above, I’ve just found out that a friend of ours was killed in the floods last week. We’d heard that a local man had died but they only released his name today. Didn’t know whether it was insensitive to write about this, but if it saves anyone’s life to know that an adult can be swept off their feet or bike in only 15cm of fast moving water, then it is worth mentioning. Please take care.