Life

Thursday 8 December 2016

Getting back on our feet after the floods

Fiona O'Connell, Lay of the land

Published 17/01/2016 | 02:30

For while January has always been a time of rueful reckoning - the hangover following the high jinks and indulgences of Christmas - never has this been so much the case as it is this year.
For while January has always been a time of rueful reckoning - the hangover following the high jinks and indulgences of Christmas - never has this been so much the case as it is this year.

David Attenborough called earth "the blue planet", due to the abundant water on its surface. But the phrase could equally apply to the emotional state of many in this and other country towns after the recent catastrophic floods.

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For while January has always been a time of rueful reckoning - the hangover following the high jinks and indulgences of Christmas - never has this been so much the case as it is this year.

Until today, sandbags were still slumped outside most properties, like leftover festive-season stockings. Except they were not ­connected to Santa Claus, but to the rescue services that took up temporary ­residence here at the tail end of that tinsel time.

As usual, Christmas fare in the supermarkets was selling at discount prices before Santa barely had time to park his sleigh back in the North Pole. But it was climate change and not ­commercialism that really pulled the plug on the bright lights of 2015. Quite literally so for those unfortunates who lost their electricity because of the storms.

It is shocking to see the aftermath of that mayhem. Half my grassy terrace is gone, in its place a furrow that is exposed right down to the rock. What grass that is left is ragged and discoloured, as if shell shocked by the torrents of water that relentlessly ripped at it.

Across the river, meanwhile, looks like a bomb has hit it. Craters pock the land, while part of the old stone wall has been smashed. I ­remember hearing the sound, like an explosion, when it happened. Its rubble blocks access to the still puddled floodplain.

Old drink cans litter the adjacent field, washed out of the shed where the town's teenagers tend to gather to experiment with such adult pleasures. While it is a time-honoured ­tradition to imitate your elders, there are few signs of such ­shenanigans. The party is well and truly over.

But it is humbling to see how promptly people have picked themselves up, as best they can. Most ­businesses are getting back to normal. Proving the truth of the Chinese proverb that says failure is not falling down - but refusing to get up. For evidence of rural resilience is everywhere.

As is a rotten cough that has laid yours truly and half the town low. I got chatting to a local in the queue to see the doctor. He told me that only one of the ­politicians who exploited photo ­opportunities here after the storms bothered seeking out the wisdom of Jim Phelan, who lived through both the 1947 and 1968 floods.

He would have been the age of some of those boys who cycled their ­Christmas bikes through the ­flooded main street, faces lit up with excitement. No doubt they will remember that ­tumultuous eve to New Year's Eve when they are his age, and us adults standing about with long faces. ­Hopefully we will have learned our lessons by then, so they will still be laughing.

Sunday Independent

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