I am gazing through the rain at the upper storeys of houses across the road, that were built in a man-made hollow dug many years before to channel floodwater from the river away from the town. The river had not in living memory risen so high as to fill the hollow.
Less than a week ago two feet of water rose inexorably through ground-floor rooms and flowed down ramps into garages. All week the occupiers have been dragging the sodden remnants of carpets and sofas out onto their suburban lawns for the inspection of insurance underwriters. White vans come and go, taking detritus away, quoting for new. To me, much of it looks like furniture I’d be wanting to replace about now, that has been cluttering up the garage. Is that old vacuum-cleaner, that baby cot, that three-piece suite or last decade’s stereo system really irrevocably useless because it got a bit wet, maybe?
You can’t blame people for taking advantage. The experience of having your home trashed by a river you don’t even have a nice view over – the houses mostly back onto the railway embankment – cannot be pleasant. Two prewar council houses have been condemned: a couple with a young child, an elderly woman, have to find new homes. Who am I to judge, living as I do on the other, elevated side of the road? But we will all pay in the end with higher insurance premiums; those who can still get insured.
And meanwhile, I am gazing through the darkening rain at the upper storeys of houses whose invisible ground floors may well suffer the same fate again this weekend, so vile is the forecast, so primed the river, so saturated the sponge of the land. A summer of misery seems in order, at least for some.