It Rains Up North!

March 15, 2007 at 10:40 am Leave a comment

norah

It rains up North. It rains in Manchester. It rains a lot. It rains all of the time. Even in the summer. Both weeks…..

I remember one typical September day in the North West of England….it was raining. Despite the fact that I was working in an office with no windows to the outside world (Dilbert would feel very at home in my cubicle), I could tell it was raining by the constant drumming, machine-gunning, against the corrugated, opaque plastic of the skylights that the Company had kindly installed in the ceiling in a vain attempt at preventing the onset of cabin fever, claustrophobia, and, a bunker mentality. They seem to like their silos where I work. It rained all day. Not your soft, drizzly, damp southern-Jessie rain but your true north western, flat capped, clog-footed, wet, monsoon kind of rain.This was bloody hard rain. It is not a coincidence that the Lake District is where it is.

And so, come 5.30pm, when it was time to leave the bunker, I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself that I was parked in the multi-storey which was attached to the office and, therefore, did not need to venture outside to retrieve my car. About half of the office have to use the rented space in the multi-storey car park across the street, in the Civic Centre, in downtown Shameless (see earlier posting: “Not a Nice Place to Live”). Not only does this mean them risking life and limb from muggers, from the stray bullets of drive-by shootings between rival drug dealers, from the cross-fire from armed hold-ups of Securicor vans or the local bingo haunts, or, risk rabies from many of the stray dogs that patrol the streets, or disease ridden pigeons, or just bodily contact with some of the locals, but, it also means that when it rains you get wet. But not me. Not today.

It was dark outside. Real dark. Kind of “end-of-the-world”, “Jesus on the cross” biblical, epic kind of dark. But I did not care, me and the silver dream machine set off for home with the xenon headlights bright, the aircon set to 20 degrees C, Norah Jones on the CD player and in my head, and, the windscreen wipers on maximum. The silver dream machine was my company car – my Audi TT 156 bhp; manhood on wheels. This was my present to self upon being promoted to an “executive” managerial level which qualified for such a perk. Some would say that, apart from my George Clooney-esque salt ‘n pepper hair and beard, the TT was the first visible, outward evidence of the onset of middle age. And, the TT was also my present to the Tax Man – you get taxed through the nose!audi

The environs of Shameless were strangely, eerily quiet. Just the odd denim miniskirt huddling in a bus stop, legs long, scrawny, pale and blue-veined. The occasional shell suit and baseball cap were sheltering under a soggy horse chestnut to keep his cigarettes dry and lit, his pit-bull straining at a studded leash, as he watched the girl at the bus stop. The weather was so bad it was even keeping the drug dealers, muggers and vandals off the streets. And so, Norah and I quietly joined the car train that wound its weary way through Styal, past the women’s prison, and into the suburban Cheshire sprawl which is Wilmslow.

The puddles were joining up. The roads were quite waterlogged in places, no doubt due to the fact that we were clearly experiencing the wrong kind of water for our gutters and road drainage. But, what the hell, I amused myself a little by “accidentally” driving a little too fast through some of the puddles and splashing the occasional Yuppie on his way to or from one of the many wine bars: 5 points for Armani, 8 points for a Manchester United player (they all live here or hereabouts)…….you know the kind of thing.

I stopped off at Sainsburys (this was before the arrival of Waitrose!) for essential provisions – two bottles of Argentinean Merlot – and was very glad to find that Sainsburys had staff armed with golf umbrellas to shelter weary and wary shoppers between their cars and the store. They were like a couple of punka wallahs attending to dignitaries of the Raj in the middle of a monsoon. So Cheshire!

And so, Norah and I set off from Wilmslow down the country roads on the way home. These roads are windy and uneven and there was a lot of water in a lot of places. There was lots of spray and lots of cars. Clearly most of these cars were driven by city folk that had never been to the countryside before, or they had just left a very expensive carwash, because they were driving very slowly, very carefully, and manoeuvring to avoid the biggest of the puddles. Myself, I ploughed a direct furrow. Straight on through. Had these people not heard of Quattro power distribution, four-wheel drive, ABS 5.3 and electronic brake distribution?!?

It was about this time that my mobile phone rang. Of course, I was handsfree! It was my wife, sounding slightly alarmed, “DJ (a little nickname) where are you? The house is about to flood! Get home quick!” And so I did.

The closer I got to home, the heavier the rain came down , the darker the skies became, and the deeper the surface water on the roads had settled. Once home I turned into the communal car park. It was flooded. The one central drain – a mere soak-away into a neighbouring farm’s field – had given up its Canute-like battle and the car park was under a good inch or so of water and rising right up to the garage doors. The neighbours had all beaten me home and had parked raggedly around the edges in an attempt to avoid the water, leaving me no choice but to park in it. And so, I clutched my computer bag, my Sainsburys carrier bag and ventured out. I paddled through the car park. It was just at this point that I discovered I had a hole in the sole of my left shoe and that the trouser bottoms on a Rochas of Paris suit act as an excellent sponge. Bugger!

I waded through the car park to find a small river where once the front drive used to be. Apparently the small drain in front of the house that also led to a soak-away in the farmer’s field had also given up the ghost and the water was lapping at the small step by the front door. Which is where I found my wife, in a state of panic, declaring that she had phoned the emergency flood numbers and the local council but that they had been inundated (ha!) with calls in the last half hour and could not guarantee that they could get sandbags to us this evening and we had a good two hours of solid rain ahead and that the water had risen at least two inches in just the last half hour and what was I going to do about it…..before pausing for breath!! Welcome home.

And so I changed out of the Company uniform and into gortex and jeans. I waded back through the car park to the garage to retrieve our wellies (his and hers Hunters don’t you know) welliesand to put anything vulnerable to water above the likely plimsoll line and began to improvise…….And so, 4 bumper bags of Focus Do-It-All’s best bark chippings became our sandbag defence outside the front step. The hallway was stripped bare as we rescued all furniture to higher ground. Towels, dust sheets, and, would you believe it, a futon mattress (only in Cheshire….) formed a rudimentary flood defence barrier behind the front door and at the foot of the stairs.

And so, behind our barricade we stood and watched the rain. We watched the water, rising, slowly, ever closer towards our defence of bark chippings and a pair of old curtains. We worried, and our thoughts turned to the neighbours. We phoned around to find them all safe behind their higher-than-ours front steps. Our predicament caused some amusement and so “J” (a former ex of Chris Evans), her hubby “D” (the Olympic athlete), and so-cute baby “N” came round to gloat. They were protected from the elements by head-to-foot Dry as A Bone, Burberry and a fluffy pink outfit complete with rabbit ears (that would be “N”) and helped us to down the best part of the two bottles of Argentinean red I had had the foresight to purchase on the way home.

As promised, it did rain solidly for the next couple of hours. It rained long after the neighbours had retired to their own, safe, dry abode to put the baby to bed. It rained while we partook of a very nice pasta dish that my wife had rustled up. It rained all through East Enders and the new BBC drama about a serial killer. And all through this time the water rose and began to lap at the Focus bags…………..and then the rain stopped.

And then, as quickly as it had come, the water level began to descend. And soon we could see the stone flags beneath the step. And soon we could see the drive where once a river had been. And soon we could see the edge of the lawn. OK, the car park still resembled a small boating pond but we were safe. We had, unlike Canute, resisted the tide. The water had gone.

And just then, the council man with the sandbags turned up…………slightly miffed that he had been driving around in darkest hill-billy Cheshire in search of our house only to find a rather sheepish couple of city dwellers, the worse for a couple of bottles of red, watching TV and snug with their central heating. And so to bed.

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