|5,000 MILES - BUT THE SAME SEA-LEVEL|
HYDROPHOBIC? - MOVE UPSTAIRS.
John Vidal writes in The Guardian today of Kutubia, an island near
which has been abandoned by 40,000, about one-third, of its inhabitants due to
rising sea level. It’s a long way from New York
and London, in
fact about 8,000 miles and 5,000 miles respectively – but sea-level is no
respecter of distance. Short and local tidal fluctuations aside, there is only
one sea-level on our planet. “We are all in this together” – Kutubia today; London tomorrow. Five billion of us live on the coastal margins.
Here is how the Whitaker family experiences sea-level rise in central
in the novel Out of the Depths (see Amazon Kindle e-book in the right hand
At home, at
Way, Lambeth, twenty-three feet above sea-level,
the Whitakers were untouched for the first few weeks of the Spring Tides and
life continued almost in its normal, dependable ways. They all bought wellies
for shopping and Dad acquired a black-market home-flood-defence-pack, through a
mate at the local pub, for a real knock down price – with no questions asked.
The nod-nod-wink-wink flood-defence turned out to be a folding plastic wall,
three feet high, fifteen feet long, the length of their house frontage,
weighted down by a sealed, sand filled hem. It provided reassuring solidity and
waterproof mouldable seals where it contacted the walls and lay across their
front door, by the counter-intuitive process of filling the bulk of it with
water. Once filled, it was both very heavy and very flexible, blocking every
crevice where flood-water might creep in.
One Friday evening, just as the light was fading, the gutters in the street had quietly filled with water and a few manhole covers in the street lifted ever so slightly. Kids trickled out of the terraced houses and formed in groups, sitting and crouching on the pavements, to sail toys and paper boats on the flow – until Arnold Whitaker came by on his way back from his work on the
Thames tourist boats and river buses.
“’Ere! Get yer ‘ands out of there! You kids. Get yer ‘ands out. S’filthy. Look! It’s got sewage in it.”
A five year old boy in a worn, black, padded puffer-jacket looked at him speculatively and noted
silver jack knife on his tool belt. “That your knife Mister?” Arnold
But the pale faced child was really focused. He tugged at
’s jacket. “I
said…” he enunciated slowly and very clearly, so as to leave Arnold, who might
be a foreigner, in no doubt, “I said… That your knife, Mister?” Arnold
“Then give it to us Mister! Give us your knife. I like it.” And the boy got one hand onto the Jack knife, hampering
’s forward motion. Arnold
“Git orf. Git orf me. Let go me knife! …And all you kids,” he raised his voice, “Come away from that water. Come away – it’s got shit an’ all sorts in it! It’ll make you really ill!”
“Will …you …give …us …your …knife.” The child stated again, patiently, with deadly purpose.
The five year old considered his options. He was one metre high, weighed a little over thirty pounds and was a minor, without legal property rights, and his home location was well known to
– so even if he could steal the knife,
he had no hiding place. Arnold Whitaker, on the other hand, stood six feet
high, two metres or so, weighed around a hundred and sixty pounds and was in
the prime of life and had all the privileges his age conferred. The older
mature male was however constrained by customs, protocols and various Child
Protection Acts. But, a major consideration, he was also becoming agitated
about something and in confusion might lash out irritably. The child had
nowhere to go – no further tactical arguments to deploy. Arnold
He took a cautionary step back, his face deadpan, his eyes watching
twitch and body signal. Arnold
“Then Fuck-off mister!” he said gruffly and quietly, and he turned and walked away with all the dignity he could muster.
“That barrier’s working, I think, Mother.”
Mother looked out suspiciously through the curtains, onto the pavement. “I hope so. The waters got onto the pavement now. It’s only an inch or two below the door sill.”
“Well they’ve just said on the telly …Even if it don’t go down, it’ll not rise more than an inch or two this month – unless there’s a bore or some’at; like a surge up river. So we should be fine!”
As he spoke, a disturbingly loud glugging and gurgling came from the downstairs loo at the back of the kitchen. It drew all their eyes to the kitchen floor. The sink pipe glugged too.
“Oh! Bloody ‘ell.”
“What is it Dad?”
He pointed at the kitchen skirting boards they could see through the open door. Just below the skirting, on the floor, tiny bubbles were popping into existence then bursting, leaving a tiny drop of water.
crossed the living-dining room and put
her hand on the fitted carpet where it met the wall. “It’s really damp, Dad!” Alice
A minute rivulet of water forced its way through the cross-joint of four lino tiles laid in the kitchen and strayed about, looking for somewhere to rest.
“It’s comin’ up through the floor.”
“And through the walls Dad!”
The six of them sat in silent indecision for a minute or two.
“It could get the electric sockets tonight.”
warned. “And trip the fuses. Then
we’ll ‘ave no lights.” Arnold
“Let’s get everything we can – upstairs. Quick now!”
And so the family had abandoned its three rooms and lavatory downstairs and took everything portable to the four smaller rooms upstairs.
sealed off the
kitchen lavatory door with tape and filler. Whatever the pipes might
regurgitate was better not being allowed into the kitchen. Fortunately, the loo
in the bathroom worked, even if it made alarming sounds… Arnold
MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND.