Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Alan Burnett And His Fleet Of Rowing Boats

I have to admit, I wasted some valuable time over the Bank Holiday weekend watching a piece of arrant nonsense on the television entitled "Flood". In my defence, I must say that I only watched the first part of what was a two-part film, and I watched that with the kind of fascination one feels when watching something really bad (it's the same pleasure one gets from watching the candidates on the current series of "The Apprentice"). "Flood" was wooden, formulaic, trite and totally unbelievable. "How do I know?", you ask, dear reader. "Because, in a previous existence I used to sit on the London Tidal Flooding Defence Committee."

Way back in the early seventies - long before the Thames Barrier was constructed - I found myself acting as the Inner London Education Authority representative on Emergency Planning Committee of Riparian London Boroughs (I think that was its name but my memory is beginning to fade). Back in those days, the tidal flooding of the Thames was a real threat and I spent many happy hours attending large committee meetings along with the Army, the Emergency Services and representatives of the various London Local Authorities. At these meetings we would endlessly discuss important questions such as whether evacuees would be allowed to take their pet dogs and cats with them. I carried the day-to-day responsibility of evacuating children from schools within the flood zone and for this purpose I was allocated a number of rowing boats from, I think, Stratford Park Lake. I know this sounds slightly bizarre, but I assure you it was true : much truer than the ridiculous plot of last weekend's film.

What the film didn't take into account is that there are very few single-storey buildings in London. Thus, the standing instructions in the event of tidal flooding were simply to go upstairs. Go upstairs and wait for Alan Burnett to arrive with his fleet of rowing boats.

1 comment:

  1. When Jane first told me you (sort-of) were responsible for interrupting my first "qualified" teaching attempts by testing the (flood warning) sirens I was bemused that you were to do with a real thing like that... (I suppose fact is, partly, you are that bit older than me!)

    Mind you, not yet qualified, I did some supply teaching the year before in a girls' convent in Battersea (first young male teacher they'd had in living memory!) the place was so low the rules were that the girls must be raced home to higher ground (how did they know it would be? - in the event of flood) despite there being a second storey... I was just so relieved there was no flood 'cos I couldn't possibly see how this could be done before the waters closed over them.

    Ah well, you see, we were both in the (non) London floods...

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