Journalist Urmee Khan, an avid reader of Pickled Politics, sends us an exclusive dispatch from Gloucester, where she has been covering the floods.
THIS MORNING I woke up in Gloucester and it felt like the waves were going to get us. It was 6.30am and the power was dead and there was no water. BBC Gloucester had started to play D Ream ‘things can only get better‘.
Apparently Gordon Brown was in Quedgely and the army was getting ready to come into the town, perhaps for the first tme since the English Civil War. The prisoners at HMP Gloucester, opposite the Severn, were to be evacuted and 350,000 households had no water – thousands more had no electricity. I climbed over my fence and heard alarms, fire engines and police sirens. I knew it was going to be a long day.
By 7am lorries that had arrived in Gloucester town centre were being sent back to Bristol because they contained things like pants instead of water, bread and milk – all of which had run out yesterday. People started arriving in the town centre to be greeted with bowers (plastic drums filled with water) and closed shops.
Thank God though – WHSmiths in Eastgate street was open, and even without electricity, plucky staff members were selling copies of Harry Potter (Manager Karrie Ann said she had sold 6 copies and several Harry Potter torches) using change from a small cardboard box.
Staff at MacDonalds were dreading the meat going off now that the power cut had happened. Which I guess proves it really is meat. A general sense of disgruntlement ensued as the Severn overflowed on to the road. It was the highest water levels anyone had seen â€“ much worse than the 1947 flood the more senior locals muttered.
Going into Longlevens was bad â€“ a bride to be looked ready to break down in tears as she held up her wedding dress and she showed how her house was washed out â€“ a giant fridge freezer lay on its side and wet carpets and sandbags propped up the wall. Stories like this were everywhere. People were beginning to wake up worrying about dysentry as toilets wouldnâ€™t flush and no water to clean.
With physical exertion, and complete absence of clean water, the good people of Gloucester – most certainly including myself – began to smell. My feet in my Wellingtons (new) had begun to look like a wussy version of trenchfoot. Sea king helicopters were rescuing people â€“ and the rain was pouring down. Like everyone in Gloucester we felt depressed.
After spending all day recording peopleâ€™s stories, miseries and fears I realised that I was going home to no water or electricity. I called my newsdesk and threw myself at their mercy, using any emotional blackmail I could think up. By some amazing result they said they had found the only hotel room in the county. I was ecstatic â€“ I could finally brush my teeth and get 40 winks before the next leg.
It is 8pm and I am in Rodborough, a little village in the middle of nowhere. In a hotel which is like a castle. There must be some mistake. No I really have a room here. For the first time in my life, I really really miss Elephant and Castle.
First things first â€“ food. I bowled into what I thought was a restaurant, but turned out to be a dining room with old distinguished gentleman who had dressed for dinner. I smelt so bad as I trundled in my Wellington boots and hair plastered to my face. I then realised there was 20 bits of cutlery for each place setting. I became very uncomfortable and I started to dream of Nandos in Brixton.
My phone rang and it was as if I had turned on rave music â€“ 12 diners turned and looked at me. If I wasnâ€™t a brown skinned I would be beetroot. I stared at the bread basket â€“ 20 types of bread â€“ granary, the works. I started to feel sick as I remembered the bread wars of Gloucester. It was like going from the Soviet Union to Paris. How was I still in Gloucestershire.
I heard a waitress profusely apologise for not having a lemon torte on the desert menu. I hadnâ€™t eaten for a day and my 5 course meal â€“ 2/3 of which I didnâ€™t order – started to arrive. Rich rich food. It was very nice if you were the duchess of Devonshire but I just wanted beans on toast. A complimentary appetiser followed by a bleeding duck. Someone was complaining about a specialist wine not being on the menu. Then the music came on, rule britannia started to play â€“ that was the last straw â€“ I got the giggles.
A cross looking waitress asked if I minded that there was no lemon torte. I just gaped and said â€“ “thereâ€™s 350,000 people without water, I can live without desert.” Like a prat I ran away. I called my friend after dinner who laughed and said “theyâ€™ve probably never seen an ethnic person before, I dare you to ask for curry for breakfast â€“ go on ask for a chicken tikka massalla in the morning.”
I called another friend on the phone and he said: “Thatâ€™s great it really shows Dunkirk spirit of the British just plowing on through the crisis.”
How can this all be Gloucestershire? Iâ€™m baffled.
Image from the Guardian website.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Environmentalism