|07/11/2014||Filled under Carradale, Kintyre, Scotland, weather|
I sit around at home trying to commit to memory the words for my part in the Christmas pantomime, learning my prompts and wondering how much of it will be acting and how much just me. The humour in the part I play requires me to act a little stupid, so nothing difficult there then. (More than this I cannot disclose at this stage for fear of revealing the plot prematurely and spoiling the show for the paying audience.) Having little or no acting experience counted for nothing in getting me into what is, as it happens, my first starring role. There was no audition, no submission of a ‘cv’, instead it was merely a matter of knowing the right people and being around just at the moment the panto rehearsals were about to start. That, and upon being asked neglecting to say the word ‘No’. But I have lungs strong enough to make myself heard from the stage and I have little fear of embarrassment. Acting the part is really no more than not taking myself too seriously, something I don’t find difficult.
Kate is seated in another armchair with her computer perched on her lap. She has recently abandoned her ‘laptop’ computer, which had become so hideously slow that writing on papyrus would have been faster, and upgraded to a significantly faster tablet PC. This makes her smile as she types up a set of minutes taken at a meeting of the local Harbour Group or maybe it is the Village Hall committee or the management committee of the local Abbeyfields care home. By virtue of being rather good at documenting on paper proceedings at these events she has progressed to the role of Champion Secretariat in the village, a secretarial superwoman if you like.
Early one morning a lorry manoeuvres down to the end of our road to deliver some more timber joists and a handful of planks for the decking I am constructing around the concrete hard standing beneath the car port we know as the ‘Bus Shelter’. The rain is lashing down and the southerly gale is blowing the water beneath the canopy so it is rather wet out there. Ducky is away being serviced so I help Steve, the lorry driver, unload my planks and lay them flat on the ground before rushing back indoors to avoid the rain. We live in a wet climate, with local vegetation sometimes being described as ‘temperate rainforest’, and have experienced days of continuous precipitation on numerous occasions since we moved here. So today is not unusual. The landscape here is mountainous. The rivers have only a short distance to flow before reaching the sea, so water does not generally stay long on the land. The rivers swell, turn brown and churning, but water usually stays between the banks as it rushes towards the sea. On this occasion it has been raining heavily all night, the land is already saturated from last week’s rain and the rate at which the stuff is now falling suggests that this just might be something a little out of the ordinary.
I have a dental appointment in Tarbert, 25 miles away to the north and in these conditions this is a major expedition. So I dress up in waterproof clothing, check the mobile phone is charged (not that a signal can ever be guaranteed around here), and set off to drive up the single track road that winds along the Kintyre coastline. In and out of pine forests, across countless small streams, past farms and remote cottages, rising high one minute and dropping to sea level the next, anything can happen in the next hour, the time the journey usually takes. There could be fallen trees, the road could be undermined by water runoff, lying water could splash into the engine and kill it dead, a skid on mud and leaves on the road could put me in a ditch, or else I could just make the journey safely, in which case I have to endure the dentist’s drill after all. The road is wetter than I have ever seen it. In many places the water pours off the steep hillsides and overwhelms the channels dug to carry the water away. I drive past ditches so full they carry water half a metre above the road surface. It all has to go somewhere and randomly and unexpectedly around a corner there is a flood which flows across the road washing gravel and small rocks down the hill on the other side. Water ejected into the air from under the tyres is blown across the windscreen by the gale but fortunately the engine is well protected and it doesn’t falter. It is important to keep both wheels on the thin band of tarmac as the ground is soft on both sides; to drop a tyre off the road is to risk sinking in and coming to a sudden halt. Care is required, speed is best kept low even if this means I am late for my appointment. But no, I have set off early and I arrive safely for my treatment, unfortunately.
It is raining in Tarbert, maybe not quite as heavily, but the high tide pushed even higher by the southerly wind brings the water in the harbour almost up to road level. I feel strangely uncomfortable walking next to this as it heaves gently and two swans paddle over, stretching their necks hopefully towards me in case I have something for them. The high water level gives them a view across the road into the shops opposite, something they don’t usually get to see. I wonder what they make of us featherless people strutting about in the rain.
Much later I have survived the return journey down the single track road and I splash past the village hall, a place Kate and I now have a stake in. Our newly gravelled car park is awash with runoff from the hill opposite which is normally culverted away beneath the road. Now the foaming flood is pouring across the road taking the easiest route towards Carradale Bay which, were it not for the still torrential rain, I would be able to see in the distance. I fear for the safety of the hall and can imagine the carpark surface being washed away downstream but can do nothing about it. What will happen will happen; it is too late now to intervene.
Local knowledge later tells me that this is nothing exceptional, it is not the biblical flood it might have seemed but is just one of those ‘rather wet periods’ we get from time to time. Although it continues to rain all the next night, the wind slapping the rain against our windows, by late morning the next day the sun is shining and the wind has gone. Likewise most of the water has flowed away too. I can hear the burn in the woods just below our garden but cannot see it, which means it still bubbles along happily within its banks. The village hall car park is back to normal, still with its coating of gravel and the sun warms me as I continue with my decking construction project in the garden. The ground is sodden, as you might expect, but other than this two days and nights of heavy rain has disappeared like magic.
Later in the day we sit in front of our log fire and contemplate how fortunate we are in our choice of house, that it can be so unaffected by weather extremes.