Talking about floods… it was two weeks into December before dastardly Des had quite done knocking seven bells out of Cumbria and, very soon after that, evil siblings Eva and Frank took up the bludgeon, and headed for York. (As an aside, is it just me, or were these storms ever as bad before we started giving them human identities?) Somewhere along the way, Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine focuses on the floods up north and a very eloquent chap tells how he and his family – and the family dog – were rescued by a ‘mountain rescue boat’.
‘Mountain rescue has BOATS?’ says Jeremy, a little too incredulously for my liking. But he’s quickly put right by the man on the line. Mountain rescue does indeed have boats, he says, and mountain rescue it was who rescued him from his flooded home. Not the RNLI or the Coastguard. Or the fire service or the army. Mountain rescue.
I can’t remember now where that flooded home was exactly. Maybe Carlisle. Maybe York. But the chances are that it was a Cockermouth team member who rescued him. That said, it could have been a Peak District team member. Or a North Wales team member. Or even a Devon Cave Rescue team member. Such was the multi-team, cross-country collaborative nature of the response.
Cockermouth team alone recorded 74 separate calls (I learn from their annual report!) – from checking on the elderly and infirm, delivering medicines, food and reassurance, to ‘full-blown technical rescues involving rescue boats and helicopters’.
By the end of December, 14,808 hours had been attributed to 32 teams, over a period of just fourteen days. And that’s just the flooding. People were still falling over and getting lost in the hills.
But spare a thought for we ‘other halves’ because, whilst we wouldn’t have them any other way, they’re a different breed, mountain rescuers. And when that SMS sings, our favourite mountain rescuer is off. In the snap of a carabiner.
It’s like an itch they have to scratch. And I can guarantee that, no sooner has the lid come off a tin of emulsion… no sooner have the ‘in-laws’ arrived for a rare weekend with their eldest… no sooner have we sat down for a quiet Saturday lunch in town… that page will ping. (The ‘in-laws’, incidentally, read this blog too, and will no doubt well remember the weekend I’m thinking of!)
In November 2009, I hadn’t yet met the climbing gremlin. In fact, it’s fair to say I knew very little about Cockermouth, although I had friends in Keswick MRT, through my work with mountain rescue. So when news of the floods hit our TV screens, I watched in horror, knowing they were out there, risking hidden traps and rushing water, wading through sewage and muck and (I later discovered) a cat’s cradle of submerged knitting wool.
December 2015 and, once again, I’m glued to a TV screen. But this time it’s different. Not just because this is where I now live, and shop, and meet friends for coffee, but because the climbing gremlin is watching it with me. And we’re several hundred miles away in a ski chalet. And gosh is he torn. Itching, I can tell, to wade the murky depths of Main Street. Whilst also itching to get right back out there on the piste and find some powder. (Although, in the interests of accuracy – and just in case any of his team pals happen to be reading this – the gremlin has just pointed out to me that, as he hadn’t updated his swiftwater ticket, he wouldn’t have been doing any wading. Tsk. You try telling a story…)
Anyway, I’m happy to say the powder won in the end, but it was tense, I can tell you.
Flies: the final countdown
Two things about flies.
One: So much for no longer needing fly papers in the ‘modern kitchen’!
Two: Since the orange high-vis gang started scraping the top soil, cow muck and slurry off ‘that’ field, we have been inundated with mozzie-like flies which are such a nuisance and so prolific, I’m actually now quite fond of their big black cousins. At least they stick to the fly paper. So, thank you Mr Story (can I call you Fred yet?) Thank you. Thanks for all the flies.