The weather here is atrocious. The snow on Friday barely touched us – there’s so much salt in the air that it rarely settles in Whitby, although in the distance the moors were solid white. Since then the sky has been the colour of wet clay and we've had hail and sleat and lots and lots of rain. Yesterday some of the more interesting seabirds came up the river to escape the worst of the weather elsewhere. My favourite are the guillemots which look and act a bit like penguins. It’s fairly unusual to see them in the harbour at all, let alone this far up the river.
All this rain and Charles Dawson’s concern about things going wrong reminded me of an incident that happened this time last year. It was one evening, the phone rang and when I answered it, there was a recorded message saying, “This is the Environment Agency. The sea-defences are no longer effective and you are about to be flooded. Gather together warm clothes and prepare for evacuation. Carry your pets and elderly neighbours to higher ground. Keep calm and run for your life.”
I can’t remember the exact wording, but this was the gist of it. This was before December’s tsunami but from the message, you’d expect the town to be engulfed by a tidal wave at any moment. I suppose the tone was necessarily, as even with this scary-sounding warning I was thinking, “Yeah right; I’ll believe that when I see it.”
So I pulled the blinds up. And saw it.
There is a road between us and the river. At least there had been before. There was a bit of pavement but only right in front of our building; there was no pavement either side of us and we were completely cut off. It was however very very still and we still had all our power and everything so it wasn’t exactly frightening. I was kind of jittery because I just couldn’t understand what had happened and therefore what was going to happen. In fact the only thing I could think to do was to tidy up a bit so that our downstairs neighbours could take refuge here. I wanted them up here right away; neither of them are exactly agile and one in particular would need to take the stairs a step at a time. But [...] went to fetch them and they insisted that there was nothing to fuss about – even though the water was just a few feet away from their door.
After a while, a fire-engine turned up to try and put the river back, but by this time the tide was retreating and it did the job itself. At the next high tide, early the next morning, only part of the road was covered. And after that it got back to normal.
Today I am having fun choosing which great works of art I want on next year’s calendar. The National Gallery website have a Create Your Own section which includes the ability to have a tailor-made calendar. So I have things like The Umbrellas by Renoir for April, Seurat’s Bathers in July, the Wilton Diptych for December and so on. They don’t offer you the entire collection, obviously – I think there’s about sixty to chose from.