Friday 31 January 2014


I have a friend in Muchelney, the Somerset village
cut off by flood water for the last four weeks.
She was surprisingly sanguine about their plight and
talked of the community spirit and camaraderie
that had blossomed in the community.
Their only way out of the village is by a boat 
that operates an hourly service in daylight.
The rest of the time she dons chest waders from
the local fishing shop where only the larger men's sizes are stocked.

Thameside properties have also been inundated.
In a weird moment of synchronicity if not solidarity,
(my feet are quite dry after all)
I found myself reading Elizabeth Taylor's
The Thames Spread Out, last night.

Rose has been sequestered in an upstairs room
since the Thames broke its banks.

The sun was beginning to set and she knew how dark it got these winter days. 
She took her cup of tea and went out on to the balcony to watch.
Every ten years or so, the Thames in that place would rise too high, 
brim over its banks and cover the fields for miles, 
changing the landscape utterly. The course of the river itself she could trace 
here and there from the lines of the willow trees or other landmarks she knew.

Beyond, on what before had been the other bank, 
a little train was crossing the floods. 
The raised track was still a foot or two above the river level
Puffing along, reflected in the water, it curved away into the distance
 and disappeared among the poplars by the church,
There all the gravestones were submerged, 
and the inn had the river flowing in through the front door and out the back.

'Thames-side Venice,' a newspaper reporter had called it.
The children loved it, and now Rose saw two young boys rowing by on the pink water.
The sun had slipped down through the mist, was very low,
behind some grey trees blobbed with mistletoe;
but the light on the water was very beautiful.
The white seabirds scarcely moved 
and a row of swans went in single file down a footpath 
whose high railing-tops on either side broke the surface of the water.

Rose sipped her tea and watched, intent on having the most of every second 
of the fading loveliness - the silence and the reflections and the light, 
and then the silence broken by a cat crying far away 
or a shout coming thinly across the cold air.


  1. Your friend is a stoic, like so many others in Muchelney and thereabouts. But it's tragic, really, to see homes, livelihoods and farmland ruined, and still so much of winter yet to come. If the water were clean, it might be easier to deal with, but when you see what's left behind when levels drop a little, it takes courage to wade out into it! The Gardener is out in the Quantocks today, helping to clear a stream that is on the point of becoming a river if left untouched for much longer. I'm thankful for our sandbags.... Stay dry, Lucille!

  2. I've been moaning about how much rain we've been getting, but at least we are not flooded or cut off, so something to be thankful for.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  3. Ooh, thank you, that is an Elizabeth Taylor title that had not appeared on my horizon. Awesome Books - here I come. Or Abe Books.

    1. Not a stand alone story but taken from her complete short stories.

  4. I went to school in Maidenhead and , rain or shine , a couple of the younger nuns used to shepherd a crocodile of us along the river on Sunday afternoon walks ... till an enthusiastic novice nearly lost a couple of us when the Thames doubled in size and the path vanished almost overnight . Poor young woman hadn't realised just how you can lose your bearings in a flood .
    Everybody's being so stoic in Somerset but they must be nearly at the end of their tether by now .It must stop raining soon ?

    1. Your comment makes me think of Madeleine. Still raining here.

  5. And we are having such a dry winter.
    Lovely piece of writing, that. Thanks for sharing.

  6. A perfect piece and a lovely photograph, thank you