Braving a Once in Year Storm!

Posted on October 28, 2013

When, in 1987, Michael Fish patronised a lady in Cornwall by ridiculing her warning of an impending hurricane, little did he know that from that day us Brits would never again have to concern ourselves with severe, moderate or even benign weather.

Thankfully, since that day, mainly thanks to the quite brilliant BBC weather lady, Carol Kirkwood, we have always known when to put sun lotion on, wear a jumper, take a brolly or only travel if we really have to. Only last January, by taking Carol’s advice, I avoided certain death by delaying my journey when we were blitzed by two inches of snow.

We should all, at this difficult time, be grateful that the British media behaved responsibly in their reporting of the type of deep low pressure system that you are only ever likely to see twenty times in your lifetime. You may not see another storm of this kind until next October but thankfully, the press were calm and methodical with their assessment of the situation that Britain faced.

It would have been easy for Nathan Rao from the Daily Express to predict an outbreak of the bubonic plague or the potential of mass cannibalism sweeping our battered nation but in fairness, he kept a cool head to ease the fears of pensioners with the calming headline “Apocalyptic weather to batter UK”

However, I knew the writing was on the wall when, late last night, BBC forecaster, Jay Wynne, warned us to “Be aware of twigs blocking drains.” This sentence immediately brought back chilling memories of that morning in 1987 when I came downstairs to witness my ashen faced father breaking the news to my mother that two panes of glass from his home built greenhouse had been shattered beyond repair.

I was just 19 then and to see my father a broken man is something that will stay with me forever. It was a tough time that he had to face without any charitable assistance and just two years after Live Aid had made Bob Geldof a multi-millionaire, my dad received nothing. There were no pop stars offering a “Song for John” he had face this battle alone and as a consequence ‘Greenhouse Day’ will be forever etched in my memory.

It was with great irony that on the day of Comic Relief on BBC One just a few weeks later, my father was wistfully kneading putty into the new glass in his greenhouse with money he had raised himself, not hand-outs. Lenny Henry is, quite frankly, one of the most hilarious comedians in history but on that day, he just didn’t seem funny anymore.

I have never laughed at him since.

So, this morning at around 7.00 am, I had to make a decision that at some point comes to all of us. Was my journey from Ringwood to Basingstoke essential? Just what is the tipping point between essential and non-essential in these situations?

We are all aware that one man’s fool is another man’s hero but knowing I had invoicing to do, I decided to make a judgement that this paperwork was indeed essential, although I fully appreciated that with an oak tree staved into my skull, it might no longer seem so.


Frightening Stuff: the M3 this morning

So, conquering my fears, I battled through the twigs and leaves up Poulner Hill towards the A31, nearly striking a lorry as I did so. Some might argue that because I was tuning in my radio and not looking where I was going, it was not a storm related incident. However, the fact is, I was trying to find a weather report, so that counts in my book.

The A31, M27 and M3 were remarkably clear, possibly due to half term but more than likely because there aren’t many people around who are as brave as I am. However, the journey was not entirely without incident as there was a brief squally shower just outside Winchester and I got temporarily dazzled by the sun just south of Dummer.

In the end, I guess I survived on a mixture of adrenalin, fear and the memories of my brave dad on ‘Greenhouse Day’ and somehow, don’t ask me how, I got to Hatch Warren, where in the cold light of the morning after, the carnage became apparent.


Carnage: I narrowly avoided death as this bin toppled in front of my car

No fewer than 27 doors from my home lay an upturned bin with its debris flowing onto the path. I couldn’t help but imagine what would have happened had I driven past with my window down at the moment  that bin had flipped open. If a discarded carving knife had fizzed out and struck me in the temple I might not be here to tell the tale.

Part of me wanted to help with the clear up operation but to be honest, it was only a small part of me, if in fact any part at all, as by now, I was dying for a cup of tea.

Sometimes in a crisis you just have to think of yourself.

So I did.


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