Our newish neighbours, across the way in what used to be loosely called ‘the view’ from our living room window — essentially wild green verge, hedgerow, field and cows, in that order — last week erected what appeared to be an eight-foot stormtrooper in their front bay window. As in shiny white-panelled foot soldier of the Empire.
Are they — I wondered, whilst idly scouring the remains of a bag of salt and vinegar with a licked finger — trying to tell us something? About the view from their front sofa, perhaps?
I wouldn’t mind but I planted daffodils and hostas last year which surely must have improved it? And we have grass and big trees, one of them towering. One of the finest trees in Cockermouth, I’ll have you know.
Giant sequoias are the world’s largest single trees. The ‘largest living thing on earth by volume’ according to Google (and they’re always right). And one of them lives here. With us. Approach from the east and you see old Wellingtonia, long before you clap eyes on ‘Strawberry Grange’.
So we win. I think.
Anyway, they’d positioned a vase of flowers on the windowsill, centre bay, which fanned out about level with the stormtrooper’s crotch, looking not unlike a massive pink merkin.
It changed colour and drooped a little over time, as these things tend to. But flowery crotch wigs aside, our stormtrooper friend seemed the perfect metaphor for our fight against the dark forces of the ’empire’ changing the face of this town, in the name of progress.
It’s all there. The invisible fingers wrapped round Cockermouth, slowly throttling the life from its core as locals flee the centre to live on the outskirts. Wreaking devastation. Ripping up trees and meadows. Spewing hard core. Scattering wild life. Striking fear into hearts. Telling us it will make life better for us, if only we would succumb.
And now, I note, the developers are offering a Kuoni holiday voucher worth £3000 to new buyers — which might just buy you a week in the Maldives for one, if you hurry online, so maybe not quite the enticement they imagine it might be on a family budget.
I wonder how many £3000 vouchers will be gathering dust in cluttered drawers, years from now. Long forgotten. No longer valid.
That said, I hope they’ve offered the same to all those residents already installed. Not least the ones who moved in first (I’m thinking stormtrooper here) — presumably before the rate card started dropping. I mean all they got for their trouble was a snazzy welcome banner and a view. A quite spectacular view, granted, but all the same.
Sandbags for all…
Meanwhile, I note that Allerdale Borough Council has doled out over £4.5 million in flood grants since 2015, to the owners of 1164 properties. It’s money from central government and great news, of course, for those who were washed out of their homes, in some cases for over a year.
But the council also wants us to give them credit for ‘other work to help protect communities from flooding’. What’s that then, you might ask?
It’s groundbreaking. Honest. A leap forward in flood protection for this beleaguered town. Finally, a sign our caring councillors have heard the concerns of their constituents and acted positively.
And even more remarkable at a time when the rivers are so low, nothing-to-see-here low — because, as we all know, when you can’t see the flooding, it no longer exists. Only when it comes rushing through your door do you realise it was alive all the time.
This breakthrough in flood prevention is that <drum roll> there are now flood sacks available at key locations throughout the borough ready to be distributed to residents if needed.
Well, woopy doo, Allerdale!
What they obviously haven’t told us is that, when the water comes — as it surely will — an army of stormtroopers (currently being secreted about the town) will be on hand to assist each of the householders under threat, to erect a four to ten foot sandbag wall around their home (height depending on their geographical position in relation to the rivers and becks), before that torrent of water helter-skelters down Main Street, once again taking everything with it.
Ironic though that these ground-breaking flood prevention measures are being put in place at exactly the same time as councillors gleefully continue to dish out planning permissions for developments which will quite clearly ADD to the future flood risk.
But no, Allerdale. Credit where it’s due. More flood sacks. Yay.