Sunday, July 29, 2007

Domestic staff as deluge doorstops

A QUICK dash to the country estate, which just happens to be in the middle of a flooded area. Luckily the waters had been kept at bay by the butler and other domestic staff lying across the doorways in an impressive act of self-sacrifice. I tip them generously. That extra Lottery ticket might just prove a winner.

So I’ve survived, but what about the rest of the region? Frankly, it’s a bit of a mess. The headline in the Daily Telegraph reads “A crippled nation prays for deliverance”, but that story is about Zimbabwe, not Worcestershire, although you could easily be forgiven for making the mistake.

Despite having 48 hours notice of the imminent deluge courtesy of an unusually accurate weather forecast, the Powers That Be only decided to send portable flood barriers to the town of Upton-upon-Severn at 2pm on Friday, by which time the M5 was starting to resemble the road to Basra. And where were those barriers? In Upton itself, perhaps? Don’t be silly. For some unfathomable reason they were stored up the road in Kidderminster. So it’s floating furniture all round.

And then there’s the M5 itself. We’ve all become accustomed to the obdurate Plod shutting down hundreds of miles of motorway every time a Polish lorry driver scratches his front wing, but why did no-one have the wit to simply remove a few sections of crash barrier and allow trapped drivers to do a U-turn towards whatever sanctuary they could find? It wasn’t as if anything was coming the other way.

So 10,000 people (10,001 if you count the baby born in the fast lane) spent the night in a traffic jam just because the average traffic cop doesn’t even have the resourcefulness of the average Boy Scout. It’s not very good, is it?

And then the electricity goes off, because someone’s built a power station on a damp patch, followed shortly after by the water supply – this time forgiveable, because you can’t build a water treatment plant unless it’s near the water you want to treat. But don’t worry – those good ole boys at Severn Trent were sending out bowsers (a fine word, much underused previously) to every street corner and the Army was shipping in millions of bottles of mineral water.

Small problem. While Gloucester was literally knee-deep in plastic bottles of Eau de Del Boy, no-one had realised that they’d pulled the plug on Cheltenham as well. Cue much bleating from the elevated citizens of that Regency protectorate, who had to shower in Dom Perignon and gold dust instead of council pop.

And then there was the scrabbling for free supplies. Dear reader, I pulled into one Tesco car park and thought I’d mistakenly driven all the way to a famine relief zone in … well … Zimbabwe. Hundreds of people milled around, snatching cases of bottled water from every articulated lorry that pulled up. There was fighting and arguing. I personally saw one corner shop owner filling the back of his Land Rover with ten times the rationed allowance. I know and he knows that half an hour later, those bottles would have been on sale in his shop at a vast mark-up.

Consider this: in the space of just 18 hours, almost six million litres of water were shipped into the Gloucester/Cheltenham area, to satisfy the needs of an estimated 300,000 people (and that figure was probably overestimated because many were on holiday or had already fled to relatives elsewhere). As eny fule nos, that works out as 20 litres per person, just for that first day. And still the tattooed oafs wrestled for it in the car parks.

Have I mentioned the panic buying? Supermarket shelves were stripped bare of milk, bread, toilet rolls, beans, Marmite, Pot Noodles and, bizarrely, Fray Bentos tinned pies. Only the middle classes were grinning, suddenly finding a purpose for those used-only-once breadmaking machines that were lurking at the back of a thousand kitchen cupboards.

And then came the thieves, the vandals and the conmen, stealing flood barriers for their scrap metal value, inexplicably overturning bowsers for a laugh, and waltzing into the homes of gullible pensioners “to check the water pressure in the gas meter, love”. As they say, all human life was there.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. As I drove away on Tuesday evening, having bribed the domestic staff to keep up their doorstop duties (that Wednesday lucky number – you never know), I went past an evacuation centre from wherein the unmistakeable sound of old people singing We’ll Meet Again came wafting on the evening air. Ah, the spirit of the Blitz. That’s when we know we’ve got a real crisis on our hands.

by all these pot-smoking Ministers who’ve come out of the woodwork. To a man (and woman) not a single one of them will admit to having enjoyed the experience, will confess that they repeated it, or will admit to getting anything out of it. They must have scored from some terrible dealers.

It’s remarkable. They can’t even stop lying when they’re trying to be honest. Why can’t one of them just stand up and say “Yes, I used to smoke dope and I absolutely loved it. I was whacked out of my brains for most of my university years and, if it wasn’t now illegal, I’d be sucking on a huge spliff even as we speak.” Well?

THE REASON for this sudden rush of senior politicians owning up to past demeanours is the next step on the great Puritan crackdown of Wee Gordon Broon – the reclassifying of cannabis as a Class B drug.

This comes hard on the heels of the complete about face on the introduction of supercasinos, and was followed shortly afterwards by the announcement that 24-hour drinking was up for review. And so it goes. If you own a kite, best get flying it now. Such blatant frippery won’t be tolerated for long.


Blogger Sam said...

The reason six million liters were needed in the 1st day was summed up by some Chav and his wife interviewed in a Tesco's car park holding about 20 free bottles of mineral water "We need at least 6 bottles every time to fill the cistern so we can flush to loo".
Ahh, great British ingenuity at its best.
Thanks be to middle class people who at least used water from their water butts.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Fucking chavs. :(

Lest not forget the Severn-Trent bosses who pocketed flood-sized bonuses, nor the bare-faced cheek in saying that we - the tax-payer - must foot the bill for flood defences when it should really be paid for out of company profits.

Unfortunately, said profits are no longer in the UK but residing in some European bank.

And we thought the privatisation of the utilities was a good thing...

6:21 AM  
Blogger ian said...

This Corner Shop geezer that you mention, he wasn't the one the TV News Crews tackled about taking more than his share, was he? Two packs per family, was the allocation. He took his whole extended family, claimed 'two per person' (at least), filled his 4 x 4 to the gunwales and all but the driver had to walk home! NAME and SHAME!

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Mr Cliff said...

Why is the water company dependant on mains electricity?
I worked for a utility before the era of privatisation, all our systems were protected by huge standby batteries, diesel generators, and as a last resort mobile generators could be brought to site.
Privatisation was meant to improve efficiency. But it seems to have improved profits in the short term, by downgrading quality and reliability, while filling the pockets of “professional” managers, who knew nothing about water, power, telecoms, railways, health care, etc. They knew only about Money, short term profits, and filling their own pockets.

5:25 PM  

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