Here in the north of England we walk through it, drive through it, see it everywhere we look. It’s become the normal state of the landscape, urban and rural; if not actually flooded the reality is mud. But for those of us who have dry houses to come home to it’s just a minor inconvenience; it’s different for anyone who is living day in, day out, in a sea of mud – or for those people whose houses have been left filled with the grey mix of silt and slime that flood water has deposited after the water has subsided.
Bear with me – there are not going to be too many pictures in this post because I don’t want to copy images and risk abusing any ownership; instead I’m going to give links and ask you if you will, to follow them and see for yourself what it looks like. The stories are not all grim. Some of them are unexpected; some are astonishing. And – don’t go away – if like me when you read these stories you’d like to do something to help, I’m offering a small gift to anyone who donates to any one of the appeals that I’m linking to. If you join in and leave a comment at the end of this post, I’ll send you a high resolution image of one of my original watercolour drawings, Autumn Leaves, to use however you’d like – to send as an ecard, or use as wallpaper, or even print out – whatever.
Yorkshire alone has seen the worst flooding for 70 years; this article from the Yorkshire Post gives an idea of just some of the devastation.
These are the realities for many people in northern England and parts of Scotland where floods have wreaked havoc, where people have had to leave their homes and find refuge elsewhere. And in the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, where heavy rain has turned the ground into a swill of mud, things are worse – because even before the rain and the mud these people had only tents and flimsy temporary shacks to shelter in, and they have nowhere else to go.
The migrants in these camps had already been through untold suffering before reaching northern France. Homeless and still persecuted, outdoors in perilous winter conditions they don’t have the support of families, neighbours, community or government relief. As this report from Doctors of the World describes, ‘the refugee crisis is taking a heavy psychological toll on the thousands fleeing war, violence and poverty. Mental health problems are widespread as appalling living conditions exacerbate past traumas.’ One way to help ease the pain is through art; by the simple act of letting people relate their experience through drawing. ‘These sketches tell us much more than words ever could. Because when you’re traumatised, words are the hardest thing to find.’
For me, perhaps this was one of the easiest things to understand.
Extraordinary things can happen when the shock of sudden disaster turns your world upside down, and people come together in unexpected ways. One man in Sowerby Bridge, helped by people he’d never met after he lost all his belongings in the Boxing Day flood made his second ever post on Facebook to say ‘It took a tragedy to bring a dawning of a new year with more hope for myself than I have felt in a long time, all thanks to a community I didn’t believe existed’.
Not all the reports are uplifting, like the looting of flooded businesses, a crime that adds insult to injury and really hurts. But in the overwhelming majority of cases people have found support and a sense of community that many hadn’t known or had thought was forgotten, and others have started to see each other in a whole new light.
This article from The Guardian gives links to appeals from Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester to raise funds for those affected by the floods.
Aid Box Convoy is a Bristol based charity that sends volunteers and aid packages out to the camps in Calais and Dunkirk.
Thank you for reading, for creating a space and time to think about these stories and these people, and thank you for any contribution you feel able to make.