Friday, August 03, 2007

The kindness of Strangers

A famous Bowser outside Mums house, with bottled water stacked up next to it a few days later. It has even made it onto Wikipedia, as there was not many definitions of Bowser, except as an army word for fuel Tankers.
These highly visible water tanks are like old fashioned wells, where people turn up with bottles, containers, or buckets to fill them up. Communal gatherings took place, and i was always looking who was at the Bowser now.
There was a slowness to begin with how often they were refilled, before the Army came to take over distribution. If you did not have a rain but then you were totally reliant on the Bowsers for your water for cooking, washing up, and manually flushing toilets by filling the cistern.
Its funny how the conversations in Cheltenham always returned to the water (or lack of it), when it might be back on, when it was safe to drink, if you had enough supply of it, whether the authoroties could have prevented the floods, how well they reacted to the disaster.
The flooding made people work together,volunteers distributing water to the infirm, new mothers, and the elderly who could not easily carry the heavy boxes of water.
I read the stories of people helping others last friday when the entire months rain fell in a few hours. Gloucestershire was awash with water.
A lorry driver saw as the rain waters were rising up on the streets an elderly couple in a bungalow that had a down sloping drive. He stopped and with his friend tried to help barricade the bungalow to stop the flood waters entering the property. The lorry driver did not know the elderly couple and stood barricading in monsoon rain getting soaked to the skin. They acted altruistically, helping complete strangers in the freak weather.
Drivers stopped in the rain to direct people to streets and roads that were not flooded. Cars were pushed, people rescued others from rising waters moving to higher ground.
The Bungalow held out for two hours before the flood water breached the hastily constructed barricade and flooded it. Destroying everything it touched, as the rain water had mixed with sewage from the drains that had filled, then spilt out the muddy waters.
The BBC has had lots of peoples photos sent in of the floods. Streets like rivers, people using boats to navigate their normal routes.
The new Prime Minister visited Gloucestershire, as did The Prince of Wales. It could have been worse too. An electrical substation was sandbagged, and had teams of men pumping the flood water away. A two mile pipe siphoned off the flood water away from the electrical station.
It stopped two inches short of the barricade. Thats 5cm. If the electrical substation has been flooded they would have evacuated parts of Gloucestershire.
The water crisis has made people deeply aware of its role in modern life.They will be frugal with it now, thinking of getting rain buts (which sold out in the garden centres we looked at), and how to save water. The landscape will be looked at, how to stop torrential rain running off so quickly. Trees and plants can slow the water down before it runs into rivers or drains. If you can stop rain water entering rivers quickly you could prevent river banks bursting, and flood water spilling outwards.
Its said you never know you have something untill you lose it. Its been a philosophical week for me experiencing no running water. And to realise how good most people are in a crisis with helping one another.

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