The return train to Manchester carries me through a drenched nation. Storm Dennis – predictably labelled ‘the menace’ by the tabloids – raged through the country yesterday, dumping weeks’ worth of rain in hours and leaving the land semi-submerged. The unlikely sunlight that has emerged in his wake shimmers on an improvised liquid landscape. Canals spill out onto their towpaths. Riverbanks are long since burst. Fields are overtaken by spontaneous lakes, seagulls bobbing where sheep should graze. The country sits like a slow drain, unable to cope with the deluge delivered by the changing climate. Water has backed up and up, until it had nowhere to go but everywhere.
The calm after the storm does not receive the same proverbial attention as its earlier counterpart. It is not as easily romanticised. Dejected reflection replaces electric anticipation; stock is taken. Those unfortunates who suffered damage assess it. Foreign objects, fenceposts and trampolines, distributed by wind and water, are dislodged. detritus is collected and reorganised. As my train sweeps past one sodden field, I see a shepherd nervously skirting the edge of the enormous plash that covers his land. Marooned on the opposite shore, seemingly unconcerned, his flock watch him blankly.
For me, this is a time of gratitude. I weathered Dennis as I did Ciara just last week; in comfort and security, my only sufferance damp socks. I am grateful that I have not suffered material damage like so many have. I am ever more grateful that I have not lost my life as two have this week. But this is also a time of trepidation. The weather is different now. These winter storms are becoming more frequent and more fierce, and I worry what others I will see as I grow old in a changing world. Above me in the uncertain sky, steel-grey clouds seem to sense my fear, lining up in aggressive defiance of the sunlight, threatening that Dennis may not yet be done. As my journey nears its end, and those clouds disappear behind the Mancunian skyline, I fear that in the grander scheme of things this is all part of a relative calm before a much larger storm to come.