…no water, no electric, no bread, or no milk, ain’t got no batteries… but we’ve got chips! (to paraphrase Nina Simone).
5pm – 23rd July 2007
Tesco, the Co-op and the BP garage have all fallen foul of the floods but the neighbouring fish and chip shop refuses, like its hefty regulars, to give up. The queue snakes out of the door and past the out of order cashpoint as residents wait eagerly for their TV-less dinners. I’m in Longlevens, a short walk from my, thankfully dry, house – others haven’t been so lucky. Those living a few hundred metres away (around 2 miles from the River Severn) have been hit for the second time in a month, their houses engulfed by water from a near-by brook. As I walk over a bridge the offending water looks less aggressive than it has been in previous days, ruling out another game of stick or poo.
The scene in general is bizarre, it’s early on a mid-summer Monday evening yet those unfortunate to live in a GL postcode are adapting to a festival lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are no headline acts or dance tents, just a lack of reasonably priced water, random ejits ruining it for everyone else and toilets that can’t be flushed. The water went sometime between midnight and 6am this morning whilst the electric decided to join in the fun at about 6.30am. I’m one of 43,000 households (affecting as many people as Wembley stadium can hold) without electricity and one of 350,000 people (that’s over 4 wembley stadiums full) without water – I’m one (that’s as many people as attend Gloucester City’s stadium) unhappy bunny – and this is expected to last for up to two weeks.
I am, however, luckier than some. Not that this is a competition, but my parents are unfortunate enough to live in Sandhurst one of the worst hit areas. The village (just two miles from Gloucester City Centre) is literally submerged. Residents have been unable to get out since Saturday afternoon, once the worst of the water from Worcestershire hit them. My dad, acting like a true yocal mentalist, has been wading through waist high water for quarter of a mile, then getting a lift by tractor to the bottom of a hill, making his way over the hill by foot, getting in to his parked up 4×4 the other side of the hill and driving to designated water points to get supplies for himself and the surrounding row of 12-15 houses – a bit like James Bond…in wellies and with a thick Gloucester accent.
Seeing people walking from their homes with pots and pans, buckets and other vessels to blue water stations or Bowsers is strange. At the moment everyone, especially kids are, to a certain extent, enjoying the novelty factor but that will soon wear off. Water has to be boiled before drinking, helpful for those with no electric… A day or two of this would be fine a week will be a struggle, a fortnight a living nightmare.
Life without water means washing in a sink as the bath is full of water (filled up before the taps went dry); it means cooking using the gas oven rather than boiling pasta, potatoes or rice(if you’re lucky enough to have gas); washing up is also testing and toilets well – I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Needless to say work is off for most people today, the roads are still recovering, Gloucester is inaccessible from the West i.e. completely cut off from the Forest of Dean (what do you mean not a bad thing!) My girlfriend, in Brussels this weekend has arrived back in the country has decided to crash in London for the night – no water when four-and-a-half months pregnant is possibly not a good move.
So I have an early night ahead of me – a night by the wireless listening for updates, unless the batteries go. Phone lines are down in part of Longlevens and my mobile battery is about to die, happy days.