Passing the time

Thursday May 25, 2006

“It serves ’em right,” I thought as I stood on the pavement in the centre of Williton this morning, watching the flood water bubbling up through the drains and down along the main street. “They’ll never learn.”

I was surrounded by West Somerset road maintenance men, all in yellow coats, and all regarding the flood with interest of the glum variety. Me, I was contemplating it with some glee, and wishing I had wellington boots on so’s I could go for a paddle. As a pensioner, I count myself entitled to idle contemplation, and a little glee and, when the occasion permits, a bit of a paddle. The road maintenance men ought to have been fixing the problem rather than watching it, though. And then I’d have had something else interesting to watch.

Nothing interesting seemed imminent, though, and so I sighed, walked up the road a little way to a point where I could cross dry shod, and then back to the Post Office where I needed to post Graham’s defunct phone off to the insurers.

This was the first time I’ve been in the Williton Post Office since we returned. It hasn’t changed much. There was a new guy behind the counter, alongside one of those I got to know when we last lived in Somerset. He looked at me with that slightly puzzled air of someone who recognises a face but can’t quite place it. I was served by the other one so the opportunity to make myself known and put him out of his puzzlement didn’t arise. I’m not sure that I’d have bothered even if he had served me. Didn’t like him then and I doubt I’d like him now. Besides, once we move into Bridgwater, there’ll be new Post Offices to conquer.

Back outside, the yellow-jacketed road maintenance men had disappeared, along with their giant yellow truck, and the flood water still bubbled merrily up through the drain. It’d stopped raining for a bit and the sun had come through the clouds once more. Perhaps they’d decided the problem will go away when it stops raining, and they’re probably right. Except I suspect it’s going to be a good long while before we have a day entirely without rain.

Like I say, they’ll never learn. The weather forecasters and water suppliers have been going on for weeks now about the imminence of a state of drought in large parts of the Kingdom. At the Chelsea Flower Show, in danger of being rained out of play, they adopted a hosepipe ban approach and promoted drought-tolerant design and planting. In Parliament, they’ve been authorising Drought Orders right and left.

Have they no memory? Have they forgotten that, each time they declare drought orders and appoint Ministers for Drought, it’s never too long before they have to get their waterproof boots out?

I reckon that in the dusty, cobweb-shrouded Hall of Small Gods, there’s a deal of chuckling going on as minor divinities wake from their slumbers and amuse themselves by stirring up the weather a bit. Any half-wise farmer will tell you never to say bad things about the weather. Or good things. Or anything much at all, really. Weather happens. You look out of the window of a morning, scan the sky, and do the best you can to choose your outer clothing to suit the prevailing conditions.

Last time we had a ‘major drought’ they appointed a Minister to manage it, and laid plans to turn off the water mains to domestic dwellings and install stand-pipes in each street, where we were supposed to wait in line with buckets for our water needs. Then, it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

As the flood waters rose, the Minister for Drought did his best to put a brave face on it, knowing full well that his job was about to come washing about his knees. The whole silliness was finally laughed out of court when some witty spark of an MP asked the Minister for an assurance that the stand-pipes would continue to function under water.

Hey ho. I shall obsverve it with my usual glee, and, if the waters continue to rise, I shall pop along to Gliddon’s and buy myself a cheap pair of wellington boots so’s I can enjoy a good paddle. You never know with weather, not in the British Isles, you don’t.

Nothing is exactly what occurred on the house sale again today. I’m not complaining, though. I’m most definitely not complaining. It doesn’t do to complain when all them Small Gods are stirring in their Great Hall, looking around for amusing things with which to pass the time.



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