Waiting for the next guest amid the wind and rain…

LATE to the laptop today. One set of guests has just left and another visitor is about to arrive. We should get a good ‘review’ from the recent departures. My mother and her partner have stayed here before and keep coming back.

Over Christmas we had the in-laws and two of our three to stay (the eldest lives in York, so popped in and out). The passage of all those people turned the house messier than usual, so this morning the accidental B&B host set about cleaning and tidying – and sighing occasionally – in readiness for the new guest.

I know little about her, except that she is 18 and appears to be Chinese. More will be discovered in time. That’s the fun of having people come and go. Mothers and in-laws stay for free, along with the offspring too, so our last paying guest was the French woman who wanted to settle in York for a few months to improve her English, which was already way better than my French, although that is not much of a commendation.

She found somewhere to live, and moved on. Hopefully she now has a job and is doing all right. That’s the way with guests. You get to know them a little, then they are gone and someone else rolls up.

So now I am sitting downstairs in a tidy house, waiting for the doorbell. Outside this weird winter is doing its stormy thing. No rain yet and never mind today’s Daily Express warning: “A MONTH’S RAIN TO FALL TODAY.”

But wind, hell what wind.

I have a view over the garden and can see the trees swaying and flexing, while bits of winter debris, the dried detritus of once-living plants, blow and scuttle around.

The bin rolled away earlier. Once recaptured it was weighted down with the small compost bin, and perhaps it will now stay obedient to me rather than the wind.

The conservatory roof strains and bangs, bits of this and that blow and rattle across its sloping surface, while the chimney behind the gas fire makes its own windy noise.

Sometimes it is hard to decide whether the wind or rain is more irksome this winter, but in the rain wins that argument in the end, especially here in York. The floodwaters are receding, which is good – but much of the city has remained dry anyway, even amid such widespread flooding. There has been no flooding round where we live, so it has been strange to hear so much about the risen waters, while remaining dry, guiltily dry almost.

Over in Tadcaster the old bridge linking the town was swept away yesterday, the dramatic mobile-shot footage playing again and again on social media and the TV news, as the bridge curled with the weight of water, then folded over and collapsed into the surging river.

On one level you can only be fatalistic: these things will happen and we cannot control all aspects of the weather. That said, there is much more we could do to tame the deluge after the rain falls in untold quantities (see the George Monbiot column in yesterday’s Guardian, which I shared on Facebook).

Now I am no engineer, no water expert either, no expert in anything other than the tricks I’ve learned, old and useless tricks some of them. But surely it makes sense to consider what happens when the rainfall lands high in the moors and mountains, to contain the water there, rather than digging and dredging our way to trouble by making the rivers run too quickly and full until the inevitable inundation of our towns and cities – most of them in the north.

Time for an independent floods commission, funded by government but kept at one remove. That way we would be free of the ducking and diving of party politics – and free, perhaps, from David Cameron and his photo-op wellies.

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