Languishing, as oft I do, in this slough of despond, I begin to wonder whether it is possible to drown through syphonic action? Whether I will eventually be overwhelmed by the gallons of water that soak their way through my soles, up my socks and beyond my knees every time I leave the house in anything less water-repellent than industrial- strength galoshes? Will the sky ever stop leaking? One cannot turn on the TV without being made aware of how very quickly this green and pleasant land of ours has become a brown and sludgy mess, where the universally preferred venue for new housing is on the sodden flood-plains of obesely swollen rivers currently fully occupied in the deluge-driven pursuit of bank-busting overflow, leading to the wall-to-wall submersion of everything below fifth floor level. I presume that building new houses on flat land is much easier than having to flatten out sloping bits – especially if the ground is so saturated that the foundations can be dug with a teaspoon. Apparently the house-building industry is spending many millions of pounds in research into how new homes can be made more flood resistant. I have a suggestion: build them where it doesn’t flood. I can only believe that there is a generally held construction principle that states that by putting a building in the middle of a shallow lake, we can stop it being a lake.
I am very fortunate in living in a house that is not prone to flooding (unless the grandkids are taking a bath) although it was built in the sixties, so it is prone to falling down. The village in which I live is not on a hillside – unless I have to cycle to it, in which case it appears to be atop the Eiger – but nor is it in the foot of a valley. I understand the voices that cry, ‘You bought a house that was built on a floodplain. It’s flooded. What did you expect?’ but I also wonder, what else do you do when ‘liable to flooding’ is all that is available? There was a time when rising damp caused the wallpaper to peel, now it teaches the cat to swim. Surely in a time of ever more eccentric weather, it cannot be sensible to attempt to constrain the flow of over-brimming rivers with sandbags and tarpaulins whilst continuing to build new targets for ingress. Common sense suggests that allowing the waters to spread across unoccupied landscapes lessens the chances of them rising high enough to flow into the buildings erected outside the boggy bit. Most old Towns were built up the bank a bit: the walk needed to go down and fetch water from the river being preferable to not needing to walk further than the bedroom. Even in the days of mud floors, nobody wanted a muddy one.
Mind you, there is something almost biblical about this rainfall. I suspect we must be closing in upon the forty days and forty nights by now. I notice that the ‘Timber’ aisles at the local B&Q are suspiciously bereft of Ark-suitable planks. There is no cat-litter in Tesco’s. All we need now is a plague. I have been scanning the horizon for the first signs of frog or locust invasion; I have checked myself for boils. I keep looking at the space between my toes for any sign of webbing, because I am uncertain how long evolution takes. I figure that being a Fen-dweller may give me some kind of a genetic advantage; that I may be naturally equipped to deal with the soggy – although, to be honest, the only natural inclination I detect when traversing muddy terrain is the prat-fall. I am notoriously unstable and, in the right circumstances, quite capable of bringing an entire bus queue down with me.
I wonder if I might drown before I die of Coronavirus? (How interesting. In a world where Coronavirus is mentioned approximately twice every millisecond, Microsoft Word’s spellcheck does not recognise it – mind you, it doesn’t recognise spellcheck either – strange world…) Mystery still shrouds its origins, but whilst I’m not sure if this has any bearing, when I was a boy, the Corona man used to come around the estate once a week, delivering fizzy drinks door-to-door – a bit like a super-glucose milkman – and his van never looked particularly clean. Could well have been a viral breeding ground. Covid-19 (to give it its Sunday name) is apparently only a real risk to the elderly with underlying health issues. OK, is it just me? I would argue that merely being elderly with underlying health issues constitutes a risk to life. Am I the only person here who does not know anybody over the age of sixty without underlying health issues. And yes, I do understand that they mean chest issues. Shortness of breath and a cough… I refer you to my previous answer. I can get out of breath just opening the cough linctus.
The problem is, apparently, that we have no natural immunity to this new virus. Until you’ve had it, you stand every chance of getting it. So the whole world must now join the queue for face masks despite the fact that whilst everyone is being advised to wear them, everyone is being advised that they do not work. In fact, as a mask becomes damp through breathing, it becomes something akin to a virus crèche. I do not believe that viruses can actually multiply externally – I think they need a ‘host’ to do it in – but My God, they can lurk. Pernicious little bugger, your Johnny Virus. The best defence we have apparently is to wash our hands regularly and not touch our eyes. I thought that it was not possible to dislike this virus any more than I do, and then I discover that it gets in through the eyes! If someone tells me it thrives in whisky, I may well throw in my hand. Looking around me now, my only hope is that it might drown…