It’s odd, thinking about commuting to work. Just a few weeks ago it was normal – I didn’t give it a second thought in fact. Nor did anyone else.
But since the Thames flooded and the centre of London has been declared a no-go area, it seems weird that I could ever get to London to work there.
I saw a man with a hoverboard the other day – skimming about two foot over the water on his way somewhere. It seems such a risky choice of getting around. At least when a motor boat breaks you don’t fall into the water. People usually die after having contact with the water. It contains everything – bodies, sewage and lots of unknowns. Some people say there are secret viruses in it from government laboratories in London – things like anthrax and dengue fever. I don’t know about that, but I’ve seen everything float by – even a dead sheep; enough to convince me, anyway, I don’t want to get wet.
The official survival rate chart that we see on the news every night at 6pm – the only broadcast for now – puts mortality at 90% on contact with the water. Every night they show this scary graphic of a person touching the water, with a big red line through it to indicate to all the idiots out there that it’s not a good idea. And yet, how do you avoid the water when there’s been a flood? There’s a massive cholera outbreak right now, too. First the flood killed and now it’s the waterborne diseases.
Anyway, everyone I know has been boiling their water since this started. When it does come out of the tap, that is. Strange that after a flood you’d think water would be plentiful. But since sea water got into the reservoirs, authorities have been having on-going issues with whatever filtration they use – struggling to use the right chemicals, the equipment breaking and so forth. Could we be more disorganised and less prepared?
And the water is everywhere. I can walk six steps downstairs before it’s over my ankles – so I usually ‘launch’ my small dingy at the top of the stairs and just wriggle it down those few stairs until I hit the water. Then I can lever myself round the turn of the banisters until I’m floating over my sofa in my former front room. I’ve written off everything on the ground floor of my house – same as all my neighbours. My appliances – cooker, kettle, microwave were all down here, and two square metres of my books – I was most upset about those. The waters took my Aristotle and my Plato and my Aristophanes. Just like a flood to eradicate civilisation! Thank God my laptop and charger were upstairs – although electricity is patchy at best.
I haven’t opened my front door since this happened. There’s no point. I’m only going to let more surging water in – and it’s not just the water. It is filled with so much stuff – not just bodies but practically everything you can imagine. All day all those who survived do is sit inside upstairs and watch stuff float by.
Outside, there’s what I call a community of ‘hollering’. If you need something – note the word ‘need’, not ‘want’; this has really brought that difference home to us all. If you need something, you open a window and shout until someone hears you and opens their upstairs window. In my neighbourhod, we take turns to be ‘on call’ to stand by our windows at certain times of day and night. We take a request and shout it onto other neighbours in the area. Mostly people ask for a tin of food for their children. People wrap the tins in plastic bags and try and float them across to houses using children’s armbands, swimming pool rubber rings, balloons and anything else they can find. Suddenly floatation is the new currency. It’s not easy, as the currents in the water are against you.
Regular rationing drops of food started just two weeks ago – so if you have a boat or a means of water transport – you get yourself to the drop-off point and grab your meager rations. Apparently the first one was like a floating rugby scrum. Since then, the food supply boats have come with armed police, and discipline has been restored.
Mostly people just want to grab their supplies and return quickly to their upstairs shantytowns; the smell outside is really bad.
After it happened, no one knew what they were doing. At work, it took time to ring around all the employees and check who was alive, and who was missing.
We lived in a soup of endless questions. Could we still work for a company whose offices had been submerged? How could I do my job when I couldn’t physically get into work – and nor could my colleagues? Was there anything I could do in the mean time? The company had no answers. How could there be a procedure for something that had never happened before?
It took them a couple of days to serve notice on the employees. I suppose it stands to reason; companies are resilient to a certain point. Beyond that, they break quite easily. It’s funny. No one saw these pillars of our society as being so fragile before; but humanity is strangely vulnerable, always has been.
Millions of people are in this position – it’s not just me. Sequestered up flights of stairs with no income and only charity hand-outs to keep us alive.
The flood has changed the whole premise of how we used to live. The idea that you could work to earn money in London has gone. Our geographical location has removed our ability to work, to fend for ourselves. London has become a drain on GDP.
I have until my phone and electricity is cut off to make a decision about where to go. The thought that I’ll need to move from here to survive terrifies me.
© gvons 2015