The River Exe in the aftermath of Hurricane St. Jude
This column is a little late thanks to issues related to Hurricane St. Jude — a very silly name for a big wind. St Jude is apparently associated with disappointment. In the event, for us in Devon and Cornwall at least, it was decidedly overrated as hurricanes go.
Locally, Acting Chief Inspector Robin Hogg, officer in charge of the Silver Command centre in Truro, said, “We planned for the worst and got away with the best.” Give that man a gong.
It was not quite a Michael Fish moment, at least Jude made an appearance. I am aware though that it grew stronger as it moved eastwards, ultimately to Denmark where it has been described as “vicious”.
Fish is the man who now lives on his reputation as the BBC weatherman who miscalled the 1987 storm. “There is not going to be a hurricane,” he announced in tones that reflected all the confident authority adopted by BBC types at important moments in national life.
Then WHAM! — 15 million trees down in Southern England.
It has taken almost a decade to clear up the mess. He is lucky we are not the sort of country that executes people who make drastic mistakes. Instead we make characters of them and wheel them out occasionally to cheer us all up.
We were living in Southern Spain during the 1987 touch of bother, so watched from afar. We didn’t entirely escape though. A year or so later we had the Spanish version: La Niña, the baby girl.
Some baby! Some girl! It originates out in the southern oceans, where it plays havoc with the world’s weather patterns. It’s opposite is El Niño, the baby boy, which raises sea levels and brings storms and calamity over a wide area of the planet. Malevolent twins indeed! Pure Alfred Hitchcock.
I had just bought a brand new villa, custom-made, with views across the Med to Morroco and Gibraltar. It had a flat roof carefully walled around to prevent folk falling off after a few drinks. The Spanish know the English.
The roof was our undoing. In the truly torrential rain of La Niña it quickly filled up and started overflowing. Dirty water poured into the house through every orifice, no matter how small. The walls were ruined. The ceramic floors were covered with a thick layer of Spanish mud.
I sold the house at a loss to a canny local and got rid of the stained contents at a knock down price and headed back to Blighty. It was something of a disaster.
There really is no place like home, where hurricanes are called St Jude, not Baby Girl, and Spanish irony is off the menu.
Listening to Ed Balls talking like a future Chancellor of the Exchequer about the high-speed train project, HS2, makes one’s flesh creep.
After his long stretch as mentor to Gordon Brown which ended with a financial crash and a truly massive deficit and national debt, one wonders how he can be so confident on HS2.
If he does become Chancellor, we will need many high-speed trains, not pointing north but out of the country.
Publishing soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world..