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Sunday 4 December 2016

The best in us surfaces as all else submerges

Fiona O'Connell

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

Maybe it's true that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - because look how nasty Mother Nature is turning when thwarted. Photo: PA
Maybe it's true that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - because look how nasty Mother Nature is turning when thwarted. Photo: PA

More days than you might expect have some sort of anniversary attached to them, even if it's just in some far-off corner of the world.

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Such is the case this Sunday, which is 'Peculiar People Day' in the USA. Its origins are uncertain, (though many suspect that a greeting cards company may have had something to do with it).

But perhaps this holiday is appropriate, as we suffer the pandemonium caused by our increasingly peculiar weather. Which is due to our peculiar antics on this planet on which we depend, yet presume to treat however we like.

Even oddball ostriches that stick their head in the sand when it comes to acknowledging climate change are being forced to face the fact that we have largely brought this on ourselves. Uprooting trees, building on flood plains, spewing out toxic waste, suffocating the land with concrete, unsustainable agricultural practices etc.

Maybe it's true that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - because look how nasty Mother Nature is turning when thwarted.

As I write, this country town is recovering from yet another gruelling groundhog day of flooding. The world beyond my backyard is under water - with more heavy rains due. The concept of 'inside' and 'outside' has become conditional, for tomorrow could see the dreaded flood water seeping up through my floor or gushing through the door. Wait and see.

Many of my neighbours have already been washed out. My hamstrings still hurt from helping bail out a house a few doors up.

But it was a futile task: the water we caught in mop buckets and other containers was seeping in even as we dumped it.

It is only when you are knee-deep in flood water, with floorboards and debris floating around you, that you realise how devastating the damage is. Businesses have been destroyed. I've seen shopowners standing stunned and helpless outside their premises, facing the hell of huge losses and a bruising encounter in the battle for compensation.

Among them is Paudie O'Neill, one of the champions of this country town. He went through all this suffering before, in the floods of 2009. Now here he was again. What sort of New Year can he look forward to, especially with more flooding forecast into the foreseeable future?

We're great in a crisis in this town. Beside the army and rescue services were women offering plates of sandwiches. Men and women doing backbreaking work filling sandbags. Others waded through water delivering sandbags to every affected house, before even considering their own.

The best in us surfaced as all we had was submerged. But we can no longer keep that community spirit for special occasions. Or who knows how many more of them we will have left?

Sunday Independent

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