Commissioned article for the Free Word Centre
What happens when flooding hits home? Rachel McCarthy, a climatologist and poet, writes about her experience of the French floods in 2016 and how we must act now - together - to adapt for the future.
Beaulieu-les-Loches, Centre Val de Loire, France
5am, May 29th 2016,
I wake to thunderous rain. My two cats sit uncharacteristically side-by-side, bolt-upright on the dresser to peer out of the window. I turn my head left. My husband’s awake too, lying on his back looking at the ceiling.
‘It’s been like this for half an hour now.’
I get up, pull on a dressing gown and draw back the curtain. We’re not the only ones awake. Lights are on in all the neighbouring houses. The rain’s so heavy that the rectangles of light blur into long yellow streams, like car headlights on a long exposure film. I count the dark gaps between lightning strikes on my fingers. For ten minutes I barely get to three, each strike illuminating a rippled sky, ripe olive-green.
The next morning while I’m in the garden surveying the damage from rain and hail, there’s a knock on the door. A man dressed in utility blues tells my husband to move our vehicle from the street. My husband, on a work call, nods distractedly and splays his fingers to indicate five minutes. The man stands for a moment then shakes his head and beckons him to follow through the gate. In five minutes we wouldn’t had been able to move our van. Water was gushing down the street, visibly rising, already shin deep.
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