This last week our lives have been dominated by the weather. I am sure that all of you, no matter where in the world you live, will have heard that there has been a series of disturbingly violent weather systems streaking across the North Atlantic and hitting the British Isles with storms: torrential rain, winds in excess of ninety miles per hour and much higher tides than usual (thanks to the strong winds pushing more water towards our coast).
The results has been considerable coastal flooding twice a day at high tide times – flooding which in places has done serious damage – and flooding inland because there has been more rainfall than the rivers could disperse.
We are told this is due to the position of the jet stream and the difference in temperature on either side of it. That all sounds reasonable but then others say that there is more power in the weather thanks to climate change and that also sounds reasonable. To be frank I really don’t know about the causes but I really do know about the effects.
Probably the most dramatic is the damage to the cliffs at Dawlish. The sea has carried away all the supports under the railway tracks and they are now suspended in the air, swinging as if they were made of rope and not steel. It will be many weeks before this line is opened again. Click here to see video of what happened.
For the people living down here this is rather a disaster: it is the only railway line that feeds west from Exeter. Plymouth and Truro, both cities, plus all the main towns – Newton Abbot, Totnes, St Austell, and Penzance to name but four – and countless smaller communities are isolated from the country’s rail network.
It is a line dear to both of us. So many characters in so many of Marcia’s books use it. In the Chadwick Trilogy Fliss used it to come home every week-end when she was at Rolle College. Kate used it to go to London for the presentation in The Sea Garden. It has really hit home because the book Marcia is now writing (I shall call this The Book) was conceived as she was travelling down on that railway having been upcountry to visit her son. Furthermore, in the second paragraph of The Book Claude (you will have to wait until the autumn of 2015 to meet Claude but I can tell you that I like him enormously) travels down through Dawlish from his home in Salisbury on his way to Dartmouth.
Then there is Torcross. This one hit both of us. I am (as you know) struggling to finish the first book about Marcia’s West Country – the one dealing with Dartmouth and Start Bay and the novels set in that area. The text is all written and I am working through now popping in the photographs and adding the required captions. Here follows a photograph I put in on Wednesday and the caption that I wrote.
I said “to both of us” because Jemima returns in The Book – and Jemima is now living in Torcross which is one of the communities that suffered from those coastal floods. The seas were so strong that they carried huge amounts of pebble and hurled them against the houses where they smashed windows and caused other damage. Some people could not escape by going out of the doors on the landward side of their homes as the waves were breaking right over the roofs and there was water – very active water – everywhere.
So, yes, it has been a worrying time but there have been very few casualties. What it has done is to make many of us think quite seriously about the fate of people in other parts of the world. We are remembering those who died and suffered other losses in events such as Hurricane Katrina and the dreadful tsunami that followed the volcanic activity in the Indian Ocean in 2004.
Marcia and I have escaped unscathed although the noise in the house as it is being battered by the high winds is sometimes very scary.
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