A river runs through our Cotswold town, but for the second time in just over a year that river has changed course and is running through the front yard of Mill House. Water is just under a foot deep in the road outside the house, about a block away from our cottage, and for now the drains are coping. The weather isn’t helping: skies are thick grey and the mist is persistent.
We’ll put sandbags out this afternoon and make sure the neighbors have our mobile numbers before we head back to London tomorrow. I know there is nothing else we can do to control mother nature. Still I am anxious, going through the motions of the day—cooking breakfast, the gym—with a length of hot worry between the base of my throat and my stomach.
The last time I was this close to natural disaster was in 2003 when fires ravaged Southern California from San Diego to LA. I was out in San Bernardino with my mother, visiting my grandparents. We watched all morning, somewhat detached, as a ridge of fire moved closer and closer across the foothills. This was a detachment borne from my grandparents having lived through this almost annual event for 60+ years. But unlike past years, this time the fire department knocked on the door in the early afternoon and ordered a mandatory evacuation. There was nothing else they could do to protect the street.
In classic fashion my 89-year old grandfather refused to go, wanting to stay behind to protect the house. We packed up my grandmother and her cat, told my grandfather to hurry up and left him behind with his taupe Buick as we headed for safety to some relatives across the valley in Redlands. It must have gotten bad because my stubborn grandfather showed up about an hour later. Thanks only to a more stubborn neighbor who stayed behind and drained his pool out onto my grandparents’ property did their house survive.
The aftermath of the fires in San Bernardino looked like a war zone, empty lots except for chimneys and swimming pools. The aftermath of last year’s historic Cotswolds floods was more hidden from view since damage was largely internal. But on Friday I noticed a large hose and a pump still in the sitting room of a neighbor as we chatted by her front door. I am saying my prayers she doesn’t need it again.