So.. When last I rambled, the hero of the hour was walking toward us with the cradle of life that is an electricity generator (oh, and a can of petrol). Looking very fetching in bright yellow waders and wellies, having abandoned his car somewhere in town at the edge of the flood water.
He was his usual bubbly self. He’s a bit like a Labrador puppy. Always bouncing around looking happy. But when the sh*t hits the fan, he can always be relied on to come through. Although very bouncy, he’s not scatty, and will deal with the situation with the minimum of fuss. One of his favourite mantras is “The impossible I can do, miracles take a little longer..”
Anyway, we had had no coffee for a while, which is never a good position for me to be in. Nor anybody else around me for that matter. So very quickly the generator got connected and we had power, warmth & light.. And coffee.
Neighbours still on the road got brought in for coffee if needed. One sweet soul commented that she hadn’t had anything to eat or a hot drink since Friday. I gave her sustenance, then suggested she could use her GAS cooker to boil pans for water, and cook food.
This day was a good day, all things considered. At some point Superhero & OH took my 4WD car, which still worked as it’s quite high to get supplies from his car. On the way they did many good deeds like picking up pensioners wading tho’ the water and taking them to their destination! When they returned we cleaned up as best we could and bid farewell to our Superhero friend.
We sat in the shambles of a lounge that had been stripped of carpet and small furniture. But we had the tv on, microwaved food to eat (the cooker was kaput) and a hot drink. We felt that the worst was probably behind us. After all we had insurance. The house was already drying out because we were able to have the heating on (looking forward, some houses were just left to fester for months with locked windows and no heating) and we had concluded that we could fix any problems relatively painlessly.. Then came Monday..
Mondays are never good, we all know that. My first problem was that although we had power to the computer, access to the internet was intermittent probably as the phone lines were damaged. My job, each day, is to process and get ready for dispatch the online sales for our business. This was impossible. I managed to get an email out to buyers explaining the situation, but that was it. I think we had about 10 minutes of internet time.
I put this problem in a ‘little box’ in my head. Very quickly though, I had to deal with our biggest, and it wasn’t the insurance. They were great, they actually landed on our doorstep without us calling to assess the damage and get the ball rolling. But we had another caller, which I was alerted to when there were HUGE bangs on front door. Upon opening said door, I was confronted with a ‘workman’ who said he wanted to come in and rip down my walls..
I should explain here. At the time, we owned half of our house. The other half was owned by a Housing Association. When we were looking to buy it was difficult because we were both self employed, but the employee of my husband would have no problems getting a mortgage. This always puzzled us but we got round it with the Housing Association deal.
This workman was here on behalf of the housing association, and as previously mentioned, he wanted his workforce to come in and rip the plaster off the walls (but only half way up), take out the skirting boards, rip out the kitchen, basically demolish the downstairs. But they wouldn’t remove door frames, which got wet, or bottom stairs, which got wet, so there was absolutely no logic. “But you don’t need to do all this” I said. “Surely we should give the house a chance to dry out and see what happens?” I said. The water was ‘clean’ water, ie no sewage. “We are going to continue to live here” I said “We need to do things at our own pace!” I said. All of this fell on deaf ears and was responded to with the occasional “UG”. Eventually I told them that under no circumstances were they coming in, that there needed to be a sensible conversation with the association, should they show their face, and a logical progression for work.
Over the next few days the housing association appeared and the same ground was covered, but they were adamant that this was the way it needed to be, however illogical. When I asked why only half of the plaster would be removed, I was told that was the way it is. “But there will be a line around my walls” I said. “I don’t DO wallpaper” I said. I was told there would be no line, but I didn’t believe them. The question of why other wood that got wet, wouldn’t be removed, was evaded.
Me and OH had discussed likely outcomes, and solutions, during the preceding days, so when we felt that we could go no further, we just said “ok, we’ll buy the other half of the house then”. Now, we are not rich, but we had (note the ‘had’) some savings and knew that we would be able to get compensated off the buildings insurance people if we did the work ourselves. So that’s what we did. The Association were very difficult, and dragged their heels at every point. I don’t think with malice, they are just not very organised, to put it politely. It took months to sign on the dotted line and after we did I got a snotty letter saying I was overdue with the rent. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to ring them up and say that they actually needed to REFUND ME a months rent as I had overpaid!
We allowed the house to ‘do its thing’. Eventually we got proper power and internet so life went back to normal. Relatively. We lived on food that could be cooked in a microwave for so long, that when we got the new cooker, instead of serving a bed of rice with the dish I made, I used a bed of savoy cabbage! The house was still a shambles, but we progressed at our own pace, doing what needed to be done when the time was right. The kitchen was old out, new in, quickly, so we could function. The walls dried out, and were signed off by a structural engineer who said that the way things had been done with other houses, was both overkill and illogical. I was vindicated!
About 10 months after the flood, we fitted the lounge carpet. Neighbours who had left started reappearing even though they weren’t quite finished, but it was liveable. They argued with the Association as walls were badly finished, and kitchen salesman had forgotten to tell some people that if you don’t get ‘drawer line base units’ for the kitchen, you need ‘drawer units’. There were families with not one drawer in their sparkly new kitchens.. I know this, I’ve designed a lot of kitchens and luckily I had control of my own!
With the physical stuff almost done, we then had to get our heads straight. The first time it rained heavily (when neighbours were still away), I had everyone calling me in a panic. Little did they know I was already panicking. OH kept walking up to see the river levels, and I think I cried at some point. Duh!
We’ve moved now, and there are flood defences around the old house, so all is well. I still can’t bear the noise of the rain on the conservatory roof, which I had forgotten until we got a conservatory fitted at the new house. When next it rained it was the weirdest feeling, but I deal with it by shutting the door!
I know our situation was a lot less than others have experienced in the last few years, and I feel for each and every one. But that is our story!