Last night my almost 3 year old woke up at 1.50am screaming. I raced through (well staggered blindly stubbing my toe on the wall) to find out whether he was losing a body part. He wasn't. He was having a bad dream. He has these regularly. The best thing about his bad dreams is that although they are no doubt very traumatic for him, they're very amusing for anyone listening to his half-asleep yowls. In the past we've had: 'I WANT MY PUDDING. I WANT MY PUDDING.' And even more specific, we've had: 'I WANT MY APPLE CRUMBLE. I WANT MY APPLE CRUMBLE.' The poor deprived child obviously has deep seated scars about not eating his vegetables and therefore not getting his dessert.
However, last night's bad dream had nothing to do with pudding. It took an even greater swing towards the surreal. He is now apparently dreaming in nursery rhymes. 'I DON'T WANT TO GO TO JACK AND JILL'S HOUSE. I DON'T WANT TO GO TO JACK AND JILL'S HOUSE.' I have no idea what Jack and Jill were doing - no doubt tormenting him with threats of putting him in bed with his head wrapped up in vinegar and brown paper. But it took me at least 30 minutes to talk him off the ledge and convince him that no-one was going to be sending him to Jack & Jill's house or indeed up any hill or to any well.
So that was how my 22nd of July started, the 22nd of July being an auspicious day. Because exactly one year ago today I was quietly working in my office, looking at the torrential rain outside and wondering when it was going to end. I then noticed a small stream running through our garden, which very quickly turned into a large stream and then a river. That river of muddy brown water had only one place to go, and that was in our house.
For some strange reason, despite the several feet of water that had risen up the outside of the kitchen door, I naiveley thought that perhaps our house had some kind of protective shield which prevented water coming in through the cracks. I was wrong. Charging downstairs I watched in horror as water began pouring in through every door. I called my husband in panic saying: 'We're being flooded!' His advice was to 'Get towels' (obviously this is the standard emergency procedures for all events from floods to giving birth). Given the deluge pouring in I don't think he quite grasped the full extent of what was going on. So I started to cry. As you do when water is lapping around your ankles inside your house.
'Put things up high,' he instructed me. Where to start? I mean where do you start? For me, it was rescuing our wedding photo album off the floor in the lounge which hadn't yet got quite as wet. Not knowing how high the water was going to come, I was probably slightly over zealous and ran upstairs and shoved the album on to of the tallest cupboard. Let's just say that if the water had gotten that high, we would have had bigger fish to fry than a ruined wedding album.
However, my little detour upstairs had wasted invaluable time. By the time I got back down again (about a minute later) the water was another foot higher. The sofas were now floating and the things in the kitchen cupboards were bobbing about and clunking into each other. It's safe to say that at this point I entered full panic mode. I stood in the kitchen with a powerful current of water rushing around my knees and was at a complete and utter loss as to what to do. The fridge suddenly lifted up off the floor and crashed into the opposite wall with an enormous bang, startling me out of my dazed and confused reverie and spurred me into action.
At this point we had no elecricity which meant we had no phones (as all of our phones are silly electric-fangled thingies) which meant we had no internet access. I also didn't have any charge in my mobile phone and no cell phone reception in the house anyway. So basically I had no way of communicating with the outside world. There was no way I could open any of the doors because of the weight of water on them.
So I figured that I needed to escape the house via whatever means necessary. I had the presence of mind to pack car keys, a phone charger and mobile phone and the telephone number for the nursery, which luckily the boys were at. I donned a not very waterproof jacket but didn't really think through my footwear situation - flip flops. I managed to climb up onto the kitchen counters, open a window and climb out landing waist deep in icy cold water, and instantly lost my flip flops. I also noticed the large gas BBQ bobbing around the garden which isn't a site you see every day.
I managed to wade through the garden to higher ground, traversed the public bridleway which at this point had turned into a raging river, threatening to take my feet out from under me. I got to a neighbour's house where I managed to call for help and alert the nursery - although they rather usefully asked me to come collect my children as they were closing up. There was no way out of the village as the road was blocked. I couldn't go back into my house. I could just sit there and feel my stress levels shoot skyward.
To cut a long and arduous story short, I did finally manage to retrieve the children and we got back into our mud filled, stinking, very wet house. We lived in that delightful atmosphere for a full month, the children getting all sorts of chest problems in the process, until we could find temporary accommodation. £150 000 later, courtesy of our insurers, we moved back into a lovely fully refurbished house that the children have already managed to destroy.
So I raise my coffee mug to the sunny day outside in a silent salute to all that has gone on in the past year. I wouldn't repeat the experience, but then again, I do love my shiny new kitchen. Every rain cloud has a silver lining after all.
P.S. on a completed unrelated subject, I have failed in my duties as a mother for the second time in a week. On Friday I forgot that it was the leaver's event at the nursery, missed it entirely. Today I completely forgot that it was Teddy Bear's Picnic at pre-school. Not only am I not attending (rotten, evil mother that I am) but I forgot to pack special picnic treats in their lunchboxes and most critically, forgot the bloody bears. My children managed to drive the point about my maternal shortcomings home with their very loud sobs. Sigh. I am rubbish.