Twitter is by far and away the best market place, shopping centre, coffee shop (albeit without the coffee) and place to go for all the latest news, advice, opinion and gossip…IMO
And with this in mind, whilst enjoying my morning Twit-dip, I came across a tweet from @dredgetherivers who were acting as a SM conduit for the various organisations who were doing what they could to help the people of the Somerset Levels. I twit-flicked through the Timeline (TL) and was simultaneously saddened and heartened to read people’s tweets about life since the great floods of early 2014.
It was one particular tweet from @homesteaddeb that motivated me:
@MoorlandFLAG We’re stripping out our place and I wonder if there’s a chance of some help Tuesday/Wednesday?
So I contacted both parties to offer not only my help but also that of my two sons (agreed ex parte). I agreed to reconvene on Friday.
However, come Friday there was a concern of contamination as the flooding had brought with it raw sewage and animal effluent.
But I am known for my Jack Russell tenacity (or it could be my inherited Yorkshire obstinacy) and I was determined to do something to help.
So with a glad heart and Dunkirk spirit (plus wellies, spade, shovel and yard brush) I set off in search of a Levels’ person in need. Of course I omitted to mention too sons 1&2 that I didn’t actually have a plan or even an address to head for, the vagueness of my determination was as ‘a sandwich short of a picnic’; a plan short of a strategy.
But was Captain Scott deterred from his North Pole expedition or Captain Cook his Ozzie dream? *puts hand to heart & looks out across the desolate landscape of bored children* No! If they could do it, so could we!
OK, I admit I kept my lack of planning quiet until we reached the point-of-no-return aka Muchelney.
Our first port of call was the farm shop, who directed me to The White House where I should find a Mr Maloney. It just so happens he pulled onto his drive directly behind me and no doubt wondered why there was a raggle-taggle hord of people loitering on his land. He directed me towards Thorney where I would find Carolyn at The Gothic House who was spearheading the local campaign.
Are you keeping up with me?
So I drove to Thorney and The Gothic House but sadly no Carolyn. But having come this far I had no intention of turning back home (even though son no1 had gone beyond the “I’m bored, can we go home” stage).
Thus, as we drove back through the village and espied some old carpet and mattresses in a front garden; we decided to pay a visit.
That’s where we met Julia Jackson and the Tesco task force from the Ilminster store who have been helping with the clean-up operation and they directed me to the adjoining farmhouse which is where I met Jo, 2 year old Fynn and 4-legged Misha.
Our production line of wood-to-bucket, bucket-to-barrow, barrow-to-dumping area was seamless. Son no1 earned his keep by hauling the heavy sacks of coal and son no2 was like a whirling dervish as he masterfully pinged the bits of wood into the various vessels.
Then came the sweeping, each of us armed with our stiff yard brushes and each taking turns to shovel and sweep until the area was ready for a hose down, a slooshing of disinfectant filled buckets of water, then more sweeping to corral the murky muddy water into the drains.
Once that was done, we swept the yard, hosed it down, then with buckets of the bubbly water, soon had the mud-packed surface free of flood detritus and no longer the health hazard it had once been.
Our job here was done.
Jo was pleased, I was pleased to have done what I set out to do, son no2 was pleased to have helped and son no1 was pleased to have finished. So I think it’s fair to say it was a success.
But the real success of this whole sorry state of affairs?
Not that communities pulled together, or that Tesco employees helped, or that the council sent their workers out on a Saturday…no the success will be what happens over the coming months, when the Environmental Agency, local council, central government, Somerset Drainage Board Consortium and other quangos and civil servants actually remember what the people of the Somerset Levels have been through and determine to do what they can to prevent it happening again.
When disaster strikes and people pull together it reaffirms your trust in humanity; as we left the sun was shining and the Levels looked lush and green and the horrors of weeks under water seemed a distant memory but let’s hope the powers that be don’t forget until the next time.
My final thoughts: Insurance Companies – dealing with the claims from flooded properties should have a dedicated task force of loss adjusters, assessors & settlement procedures to ensure claims are given priority and fast tracked.
Water supply companies – should give customers preferential rates where they have had to use excessive quantity of water to wash property/belongings.
Refuse/rubbish/recycling collections – should include all refuse unless toxic/dangerous at no extra cost to customer.
Environmental Agency/Local Council – should work in conjunction with locals & specialists to create effective protection in form of flood defences, drainage & stabilise surrounding ground area allowing for soil structure.
Local Council – should give homeowners council tax relief where property uninhabitable or partially habitable.