Bertie sits in guard dog pose on the bank up behind the house, next to Monsieur F's maize field. He's watching the "fauchage" tractor on the skyline clearing the ditches that border the road along the ridge and gives an occasional "woof" of encouragement.
Near-by, Tod is chain-sawing a dead elm that came down in one of the windy days over Christmas. Shame! Although it has been dead for years its gaunt branches reaching skywards continued to offer some sort of shelter and perching point for birds. We have too few mature trees in our garden. Those that we have planted are still tiny.
My task is cutting the long grass on the bank that tips down into the field where our tiny trees are slowly growing.
We're making the most of the sunshine. We need the exercise and fresh air after much feasting and merriment; thoroughly indulged by friends on The Day and then too much chocolate, Lidl's ice-cream "bûchettes de noël" and panettone thereafter. (We're doing our best to finish it all before New Year resolutions start.)
Over Christmas lunch we reflected on how tough Christmas must have been for so many this year. And there seemed a particular poignancy to our reflections as we know well and love some of the areas worst affected.
I grew up alongside the River Mole.
A placid, gentle river, meandering through reed beds and round islands, it was there I paddled, learnt to fish, played hide and seek with my brother, walked the dogs, picked cowslips and day-dreamed of boyfriends.
It is a Wind in the Willows kind of river and all too easy to underestimate. Because occasionally, just occasionally, it becomes a raging torrent that tears its banks, hurtles over weirs, roars round the arches of old brick bridges and pours over its flood plain.
When I was very young, this didn't seem to matter that much as the plain was largely playing fields, scrub land and watercress beds. So as kids we just thought it was fun and stood at the edge of the brown swirly water as it washed across Guildford Road and stopped the buses from the garage getting into town to take us to school.
But over the decades, with pressure on housing in the South East, what were playing fields and watercress beds became building plots. And this year the River Mole has become again that raging torrent, flooding homes, disrupting travel and leaving thousands without power over the one time in the year when we are told: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that we are "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" and "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." For many, it must have been anything but.
Here's hoping that the River Mole quickly returns to its normal beautiful tranquillity and that 2014 is a good year for all.
2 years ago