So it’s 25 years and a day since poor old Michael Fish downplayed the greatest storm to lash southern England for a billion years, or something. Terrible for him. The one time anybody ever listened to the weather forecast, and his seaweed let him down. Yes, I know it’s more complicated than that, but I like to imagine him poring over a sinister bit of wrack which had its own dark agenda all along ….
For me, the storm is one of those Kennedy moments. I remember the whole day very clearly. Well, starting with the night. The curtains fell down on top of me as I slept at about 3am. I opened half an eye, thought, ‘blimmin curtains! So we didn’t put those up right after all!’ and went back to sleep. I was sharing a flat at the time with my lovely friend L. We’d been at university together and had somehow, I’m not sure how, acquired an illegally sublet council flat in Stockwell. It was quite close to the tube (which always comes top of ‘London’s most dangerous tube station’ lists. Yep, the place where the policemen mistakenly shot the backpacker dead not so long ago). It had walls and floors and was perfectly fine, once we’d painted it. All right, it didn’t actually have beds, we both had mattresses on the floor, but it did have a very lush shagpile carpet which appeared mysteriously one night and we asked no questions about.
Back to the storm. When my alarm went off, I fought my way out of the curtains and off the mattress, tried to turn on the light, realised the power was off and thought we had forgotten to pay the bill. Off to work I went. There were a few bits of tree lying around in the road. ‘Blimmin council,’ I thought. The newsagents was lit by candles. “Maybe they forgot to pay their bill too?’ I wondered. My tube journey was perfectly uneventful, except that I got a seat. I got into work – and there was hardly anyone there. I should point out I was working at the Sunday Telegraph at the time, and normally people were in at the crack of dawn on Thursdays, panicking about the paper due to come out at the weekend. Thursday was the day when it all got serious, after a gentle warm-up to the week in El Vino and other hostelleries. This was the old Fleet Street, you understand.
People clustered around me, asking how I’d made it in. I assumed they had all gone mad. ‘But don’t you know about the storm?’ they said, aghast. I realised, as the day wore on and the war correspondents finally made it in, with tales of their derring-do, that I had lived through an extraordinary event – without even noticing.
Still to this day I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. Certainly it’s a skill not to panic in a crisis, but not noticing the crisis in the first place is ….. unusual. I like to think I’m a bit more aware of my surroundings these days. And I certainly fix curtain poles better than I did.
Oh, and while I’m here, Lil-lets have kindly offered to send me some samples after yesterday’s post about periods. I told the girls, who said it was great the way people sent me stuff I blogged about. They then suggested that I write a LOT more about chocolate and designer clothes. And *diamonds.
*actually this was my idea … but don’t let that stop you sending in the brilliant-cut solitaires. Thanks x