It seems that an increasing number of people have no idea how to deal with anything out of the ordinary. If anything goes wrong or upsets their lives, it’s always a disaster or they are devastated, and usually it’s someone’s fault, for which they expect instant answers, instant results and of course instant compensation along with a photograph in the local press or these days on their Facebook page, of them looking ‘devastated’ . 

Recently the regional press has again been having a field day since the heavy rain storms –  not unknown in late October and early November – so out came the usual stories and pictures in the press and on TV of swans swimming around the fields alongside the river or on the floodplains in various towns along with hapless home owners flooded out because ‘somebody’ didn’t do that or did do this. Even worse off are the people flooded out because their new delightful and expensive country home bought to escape the urban environment and get a better quality of life was built on a flood plain, something that was often warned about by locals who objected to plans for sometimes hundreds of houses to be built in areas known to be subject to flooding, only to have their objections and concerns overruled and be called nimbies into the bargain. 

Not only homes of course, new enlarged motorway junctions to ease traffic congestion and business parks have, in many cases, taken much longer than planned to construct as builders find that land has deep water courses which makes building difficult, costly and more time-consuming. 

Goodness knows what homeowners think of the disruption to their lives and the personal cost to them and their families as their sometimes quite new homes are flooded by filthy, often sewage laden water, with the damage caused often taking ages to be satisfactorily repaired. And it’s easy to see why – as many homes built in the last few years may be nice and modern, but they have interior walls and partitions that are not particularly robust, which, although totally adequate normally, fail after water or flood damage. These, then, have to be removed and rebuilt, a slow and costly exercise as anyone who has had to have a bathroom wall rebuilt after leakage from a poorly installed shower unit will tell you.

As more than one builder will tell you it is a national scandal in its own right that many homes which suffer damage in this way are sometimes less than five years old. There is also the cost of other fixtures and fittings to be added into the nightmare. Then to add insult to injury homeowners can find that when home and contents insurance renewal time comes along the premium has rocketed or in the worst case insurance is no longer available or companies decline to quote. Insurance application forms now often ask if property has been flooded in the past or how far is property is from streams or rivers and so on.

It would seem that ‘lessons learned’ less than twelve years ago when there were extensive and very damaging floods were not, in many cases, ‘learned at all’. This time some people have complained that they were ‘let down’ by the emergency services, the police in particular apparently have had a huge volume of calls. Just what the police are supposed to do about flooding is not clear, it could be that calling the Fire and Rescue Service may have been a better choice, but these, according to one regional newspaper, were often busy rescuing people who had decided to drive cars, often at speed, through flood water all of  five or six inches deep, then they are apparently bemused, shocked, confused and stunned as the vehicle slows to a halt with irreparable engine or transmission damage. They find themselves not able to get out and walk a few feet from their stranded car to dry land but are able to use their ever present mobiles to phone the emergency services and demand to be rescued, while often at the same time making a video of the incident.  

Why people think they can drive vehicles at speed through standing water is lost on me and presumably them, as they grind to a halt or become passengers in a 2 tonne sledge as it aquaplanes out of control into the nearest hedge, motorway crash barrier or worse. Having wrecked the car, involved the emergency services in an incident that they could well do without, especially if the damaged vehicle itself becomes a dangerous hazard, an insurance claim invariably follows which means we all pay for their stupidity, incompetence or arrogance with higher insurance premiums.

That week the same regional newspaper carried pictures of cars marooned in streets and car parks which are well known to flood and in one case alongside the rapidly rising river. Readers’ comments were not, in the main, sympathetic and one does wonder if these drivers ever look any further than their mobile phone screen when driving. 

The first frost and ice of winter arrived this week, along with the usual crop of drivers unable or unwilling to reduce their speed until, after losing control of their vehicle, they crash off the road often hitting an oncoming vehicle on the way. One sharp bend here in St. Mary on the Wold is hardly ever, in the winter months, without cars sitting forlornly in the field that adjoins it. The highways department thoughtfully provided extra signage, some of it illuminated, to point out the bend which is clearly visible for some distance, only to have them regularly destroyed by out-of-control cars (or should that be drivers). This year though they seem, for the moment at least, to have given up the unequal struggle 

Any situation, whatever its cause, is always dramatised by ‘information’ from on the spot experts on social media, the press, such as it is these days, and inane comments by presenters on radio and TV, one of whom was recently telling people ‘not to bother going out this morning because the weather is bad and heavy rain is causing problems on the roads’. I wonder if the same presenter would be happy if everyone followed that advice and emergency calls to services went unanswered or all shops and offices closed because ‘the weather’ is bad today so we all stayed at home, wrapped up warm and comfortable, listening to drivel on the radio or TV. No wonder audience figures are declining!

(To be continued in tomorrow’s issue)


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