Rain Of Terror

I admit it; I’m becoming paranoid about the garden and the forthcoming nuptials that will be celebrated here. Yesterday it hosed down and while I like a bit of rain, as much as the next man, this was to be beyond pleasant. The Textiliste and I pottered about listening the the sometimes distant, sometimes close rumbles of thunder and waited. At one point a flash of lightening cracked behind us and we both jumped in a sort of synchronized startle.

It passed us by; West London wasn’t so lucky. It had the whole of |July average rainfall in two hours.

This is one image courtesy of the BBC.

It took me right back to 2004. I’ve mentioned this before but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all shudder at it again.

It was unusual for a Tuesday in April. Hot and muggy with a sky that couldn’t make up its mind between white and blue. Work was dull – 2004 wasn’t an exciting year, work wise. About six o’clock I gave up trying to struggle with a report written by a worthy if verbose junior and pulled on my cycling gear.

If London becomes intolerable – and I’m very patient with my city and its many failings – it is when it becomes so humid that the pavements sweat, the tarmac on the roads shimmer like black jelly and the passers by develop the complexion of flu victims – pallid, pasty and puce.

Wheeling my bike up the slope to the security gates I stopped to strap on my helmet and breathed in the air – like a mouthful of uncooked dough. I freewheeled down the one way street (the wrong way) and turned into Tudor Street, heading for Blackfriars Bridge. You knew a storm was coming but it was only as I eased out onto New Bridge Street and saw the yellow, apocalyptic sky to the south over Elephant & Castle that I realised it was going to be a humdinger.

April 27th 2004 and my part of South London experienced a 100 year deluge – 4 inches in 90 minutes. The whole of April’s average rain while a chicken roasted.

The first spots hit me as I left the death traps of the roundabout at Elephant and headed due south along the Walworth Road. The spits became drops became dollops as I pedalled the three miles to Denmark Hill and King’s hospital. Hail joined in as I rose from my seat and narrowed my eyes to climb the hill past Ruskin Park. Leaves and branches flooded back past me. The road had disappeared under the tide and the street lights strained to penetrate the gloom.

A point came when the water was so much that I couldn’t see; like I was underwater and blinking it away no longer worked. By now my clothes were soaked, my trainers full and my skin that slick oily texture you get  if you spend too long in the bath. At least I wasn’t cold.

Once I’d crested the hill and turned onto Sunray Avenue things improved – the tree cover helped let me see at least – and I began to enjoy the novelty of skimming through a continual ford. No doubt it wasn’t safe; no doubt at any moment my wheels could have aquaplaned and I could have joined the flood.

Through the Village the roads were empty of people and traffic. At the entrance to Dulwich Park I stood, amazed as the sand from the horse rides was washed, like London’s own long-shore drift into the road. By now I really wanted to be home, under cover, watching  this event remotely.

The last part of my journey takes me under a railway bridge. The dip down is some ten foot to give enough clearance for the many school coaches that pass by. The dip was full of water and in the middle sat a car, the water halfway up the door. I had no other way home and I was so wet I thought, ‘sod it’; I climbed off and waded into the grim lake to push my bike to the farside. I thought momentarily about the car owner, wondering where they were.  I soon found out. The driver, a women of about thirty, sat inside, staring ahead. She jumped when I tapped on the window and wound it down a crack.

‘You ok?’

A nod that told a different story.

‘You sure you don’t want to get out?’ I’m no engineer and I guessed the water would never reach a dangerous level but even so.

‘I can’t. The water will ruin the car.’

‘You could climb out of the window.’

‘Into that?’

The ‘that’ was of course what I was standing in, a murky brown syrupy soup that swirled and eddied around my legs; it was oddly warming.

‘I’ll wait for my husband.’ The window went back up.

I stood there, up to my thighs in both dirty water and a dilemma. On the one hand, it seemed safe enough to leave her. I doubted the water would rise so far as to reach the windows and anyway the seals must be fine or she would have said. On the other there is a pub, the Alleyn’s Head just past the bridge. If I could get her out she could shelter in the dry and safety. And it did seem a bit mad to stay outside when you weren’t sure what the weather might throw at you next.

Sometimes I get these mad ideas, a mix of showing off and altruism. The car was a small one – Nissan Micra or something and I’m a big strong boy (in my head at least). I tapped again. ‘Let the handbrake off and I’ll try and push you out of the water.’ I remember her looking at me for the first time. Not exactly pity, not exactly gratitude. More a sort of ‘well, there’s nothing else on the telly tonight’ look.

I took part in a competition once, as a boy scout when we had to lift a dead weight, a car I think and prop it up with bricks. Someone – the Archaeologist probably – knew the only way we would be strong enough was to put our backs to the car, and push with our legs. It worked. So I did the same. I had a number of doubts – I wanted to be called Thomas when I was a child – my parents gave the Archaeologist a middle name and omitted to give me one and to assuage my jealousy and hurt they added in Thomas for a few years until I decided I didn’t care (I did, I just hid it well). Doubting Thomas of Dulwich, that was me: would my footing slip? What exactly was in the water that had collected here? It was opaque and things brushed past my legs constantly, which might be twigs and leaves or even the flotsam and jetsam of schoolboy littering, but might equally be something less attractive.

The car began to move and the water gurgled and sucked at my legs. I felt good. This was going to work. Slowly, inexorably me and the car climbed the slope as one, until the water dropped below my calves and I could make out my socks. I heard the window go down and called for the driver to put the brake back on.

The driver’s door was clear of the lake and the woman climbed out, unfurling a brolly. I still don’t think she trusted my motives because she backed away quite quickly, albeit with a couple of hastily expressed thank yous and made for the sanctuary of the pub. I smiled and ‘no problem’ed after her.

With her gone and the car safe, I took a deep breath and turned for my bike. As my feet came free of the water, I looked down; sitting on the top of the laces of my trainers, glinting in the sodium glow of a street lamp sat a slick, apparently freshly-minted turd.

Was that what the woman saw? Is that why she didn’t want to stay? I flicked it off and headed home. At least there I could bath in clean water.


And at least this time my planting hasn’t been destroyed….

and Pangloss the Dog remains convinced everything will be all for the best in the best of all possible worlds

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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47 Responses to Rain Of Terror

  1. She didn’t sound very grateful – I would have clambered out of the window !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great description of an heroic ordeal

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trifflepudling says:

    I noticed this, but not yesterday, the day before? I thought about you two! We had rain for about 10 mins here, so no doubt our turn for a similar event will come … St Swithin’s Day today: do you wish for rain for next 40 days, or none …?
    I wonder why she wouldn’t accept help?? I guess you must’ve been quite a strange sight, though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes the day before. Written correctly but published late!! I would like ten out of forty thanks very much.
      Yes I probably came across as drenched and deranged.


  4. taking my cue from Dog

    Liked by 1 person

  5. floridaborne says:

    I’ve heard many times that no good deed goes unpunished, but in your case, you got s#it for it. 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  6. George says:

    You knight in shite-ing armour (sorry, it’s the best I could think of). Very entertaining story, masterfully told (as always).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. davidprosser says:

    I hope the armour didn’t get rusty?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Erika says:

    Wow, such experiences are scary. I definitely would not have wanted to be that woman in the car. Over here, big parts of Switzerland are under water. It is crazy. Our creeks and rivers are filled up to the edges too but we are still lucky. The people in Central Switzerland aren’t… big damages everywhere due to the flooding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’m watching it on the news. You guys are getting pummelled. Hope you stay safe and dry

      Liked by 1 person

      • Erika says:

        Thank God, our area is still lucky with the water levels but if it doesn’t stop raining this can change quickly. We are living right next to he river Rhine. But it is more dangerous right now about 200 km from here in Basel. I appreciate it once more to live on a hill. However, this is nothing compared with what the poor guys in Germany are going through.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Darlene says:

    Another great story. You were indeed a knight in armour. I wish she would have been more appreciative.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I would have enjoyed it more had she tripped over your bike as she got out and landed face first in the turd. Is that wrong of me? A great recount!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. noelleg44 says:

    No good deed…and all that. What an ungrateful person! But yes, after that, you needed a good shower!
    Dog seems to be enjoying the garden royally – but he seems to be happy pretty much everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. JT Twissel says:

    That woman sounds a bit daft! No way I’d sit in a car in the middle of flooding! You were a real gent.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You were the hero, Geoff. The woman a fool.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. arlingwoman says:

    I’ve been seeing flooding on the news–it looks bad. We get flash floods here from underground streams when there’s a lot of rain and people WILL drive into water. I’d like to know what that woman was thinking, as she seemed a bit ungrateful or just rain shocked…I like Pangloss Dog. Perhaps he is right.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. willowdot21 says:

    It certainly was a doozy on both occasions wasn’t it. As ever Geoff you were an officer and a gentleman solicitor! Even if a tad soiled!
    I still remember our house being flooded out! The storm drains were being renewed and we were struck by a “once in a hundred years storm” I will never forget the sound of water bubbling up the floor heating vents and filling the house to knee level!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. She doesn’t sound very grateful, Geoff, and after you were such a gentleman. A grand tale to be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jennie says:

    She was lucky you helped, and quite ungrateful. I don’t think it was the turd. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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