Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The river wild

I live on a bluff next to an ancient ruined castle overlooking a valley through which a river runs idly out to the nearby sea. I get up each morning and make a cup of tea then wander into the living room and sit opposite the big french windows to the balcony, enjoying the swans and ducks bobbing about on the water... sometimes at this time of year there is snow on the far off mountains. That is my morning routine.

One of the perks of working from home is that you can start your day when you are ready and yesterday I remained in bed much later than usual with a bad headache. My curiosity finally got the better of me when I heard a lot of noise below the bedroom windows, facing out into the narrow dry stone wall edged street and opened the curtains to see a farmer and some neighbours herding about 100 sodden sheep along the street and up past the castle. The only way they could have come would have been over the tiny Victorian arched bridge and through the bottom of the High Street... which seems an unusual route to take livestock.

Slightly puzzled I walked into the kitchen, the steamed up windows blocking my usual tranquil view and almost dropped my cup of tea a few moments later when I walked into the living room and got the full effect of what was happening outside through the big french windows... the river was swollen to about 4 times it's normal size and was running very fast out to sea carrying all kinds of debris along. The angry water was hitting the little Victorian arched bridge full force and kind of whirling around to try and get under the single stone arch. The bit that freaked me out was that there were still a few cars crossing the bridge and loads of people stood on it watching the water crashing just a few feet below them.

Not long after the road and bridge were closed as the water carried on rising and Police helicopters flew overhead with loud hailers telling everyone to get off the bridge immediately and get onto higher ground.

I heard on the radio that the next town along the river , St Asaph had already been evacuated and tragically an old woman's body had been found in a flooded house. The sky had a thick covering of gunmetal grey clouds the whole day and the people I spoke to were prepared for emergency evacuation if it started raining again. I wouldn't need to be evacuated as my home is so high above the river, but the hotel/restaurant and holiday complex across the bridge were soon under several feet of water. The river has burst it's banks and even now, 24 hours later, all the neighbouring fields are lost under water, the tops of hedgerows and trees poking up from the grey surface, stoically waiting for the levels to drop. Of course it was a full moon so the tides were  at their height too. Thankfully the forecast rain never happened but today the clouds are still so low and ominous I don't think we are out of the drama-zone yet.

Despite the flood warnings that had been broadcast the previous night, this all took me by surprise. Yes, we had torrential rain and really high winds all day Monday, and throughout the night - but that is pretty much how the weather has been all Summer - now it's Autumn, it just seems like more of the same!  I guess we just finally reached saturation point, quite literally.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Auto Arachnophobia

A friend recently described me as "fearless", and while that is a total exaggeration I like to think of myself as down to earth and resilient. I live alone, I have faced some real upheaval and turmoil in my life and more than once been in a situation of real physical danger... so it's more than a little annoying that I can still be reduced to a quivering wreck by a very specific type of creepy crawly. I was just lucky that the bl**dy thing decided to leap into my line of vision on a deserted country road instead of in the middle of rush hour traffic where my blind panic and illogical behaviour could have caused a serious accident.

So this is a big heartfelt thank you to the really nice unknown guy who temporarily abandoned his bicycle ride with his young son to help a rather distressed and embarrassed me on the side of the road today. Yes, he laughed himself silly at the fact that I had been evicted from my own car by the sudden appearance of a large spider bungy jumping unexpectedly from the sun visor directly into my face, but he also took the time to do a quite detailed inspection of the abandoned vehicle for the bright orange eight legged villain and assure me that it was safe for me to get back in.

No, I didn't get to see any evidence of the creature's demise but he assured me it was dead and I decided to believe him, because otherwise I would still be there, legs shaking, on that grass verge in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that says something positive about my efforts in recent years to get control over my stupidly OTT fear of spiders. Something, but not enough. I drove away, still feeling a little panicky, but determined to try and concentrate on the road. I felt ridiculously proud of myself for getting back in the car, even though the image of it falling into my line of vision so suddenly kept creeping back into my mind, all the way to my destination. That image flashed back again a few hours later when I came to drive home. It was dark by then and it was a little harder to ignore the many spider concealing shadows inside the vehicle and keep my mind on the moonlit road ahead. I did it though and felt relieved to get back into the flat.

Now I just need to go and inspect the bedding for wandering critters before I go to sleep... so much for fearless!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Through a glass darkly...

An afterthought on my last post.... I'm sure people just think I am being flippant, but it has been on my mind a lot that I really don't enjoy reminiscing about my youth. My old college friends love to relive those days and often come up with annecdotes that involve me and laughing a lot so I guess I must have been having fun?

Errrrr, on the outside maybe, but from late childhood I have suffered from sometimes quite severe bouts of depression, something I have now learned to cope with and even avoid for the most part. I understand myself well enough now to be able to spot the signs and take evasive action (I very rarely have to resort to medication anymore) but it was not always that way and from my late teens to mid thirties, a lot of the happy laughter filled memories they want me to revisit with them in, are actually buried somewhere under the grey, sodden, chilled fog of either my condition or the medication I sometimes took to counteract it. Medication for severe depression often just results in a complete absence of any feeling rather than a lifting of the lows, so maybe all my memories are somehow "fire damaged", "shop soiled" or just otherwise altered out of all recognition. For me the past as a tourist destination is a hall of mirrors, friends wander happily though seeing us all reflected as we were, but my reflection is distorted by my very different emotional experience of the same events.

In case you are wondering why my friends remember me smiling and laughing and assume my memories must be as good as theirs, well, people with depression and many other mental 'anomalies' are often supremely good at hiding their despair from everyone around them. I know I was.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Missing the reminiscing gene?

I have an old friend who seems to have gotten off the bus in the 80's. He still dwells there, quite happily, and often beckons to me from a distance. The past (my past, the one I have already lived) is a place that doesn't really interest me though. I have a huge passion for The Past - so long as it is someone else's, someone unknown, and preferably before the century I was born into - that Past has an exotic magic... but not the mundane documentary realism of the twentieth century... no thank you. I wake up each morning wondering what the day may bring and sometimes make hazy/lazy plans for an out of focus future, but that's about as much Time Travelling as care to indulge in.

Another friend came to stay for a few days last week and we reminisced a little about pasts that we inhabited before our paths (pasts?) crossed. But it was a specific rummage through memories to find nuggets on a similar topic, these little dips into the past were all part of a long conversation about something abstract that interests us both in the present.

I read a lot of blogs and reminiscing as a theme crops up a lot, mainly the writer delving back into their childhood/teens/early adulthood and finding great solace or amusement in the things they got up to then. (Or, fondly wish they had gotten up to possibly?) I often wonder just how wonderfully embroidered those shared memories are? I think that may be my problem: I have a sharp focus memory and can recall the boredom, the damp student flats and that feeling that we were all waiting for our lives to begin. Of course, I do also remember that we had fun - but we have fun now too. I would rather have more fun that remember spent fun.

Anyway, it's something I was musing on recently while visiting my Mother. As a virtual recluse I am often amused by her hectic social life and the fact that she likes to moan about it, as though she is merely swept along by it all, powerless to spend time alone in front of the TV. This day she was harrumphing about an impending dinner with some old work colleagues from her pre marriage-and-baby days. I asked why she wasn't looking forward to it and she explained that she loves to see these women and hear about their lives but that she knows they will soon want to talk about old times, something she just doesn't have the patience for. She claimed my Grandmother was just the same!

So perhaps, ironically, my reluctance to reminisce is hereditary? Handed down through generations of people who were perfectly satisfied living in their own presents?