Saturday, 22 February 2014

Here Comes the Rain Again...

As I write this I am aware that there is a thin shaft of sun-light dappling the conservatory in a very hopeful manner but frankly I don't fancy its chances.  For those not living in the British Isles, I should explain that presently we are in the midst of a rather long deluge whence God is attempting us to wash us off the face of this part of the earth like a rather stubborn stain.  Now this is undoubtedly because of some sinfulness (I'm not buying the idea that its because those nice gay people want to get married, unless Somerset has become the Gay Capital of England.  Ah, bigots spout such exciting nonsense!) Anyhow, all this endless, endless rain (which has turned our chicken run into something resembling Passchendaele) got me thinking about Victorian images of flooding...

The World Before the Flood William Etty
There we were, just before Christmas, behaving quite disgustingly.  I'm the one on the left.  Maybe it was the amount of Quality Street I ate over the festive period, possibly it was all manner of other naughtiness I got up to, but something snapped and on came the rain...

The Eve of the Deluge (1865) William Bell Scott
I love this picture because surely one of these louche types hanging around on their sundeck thought 'Hang on, why have the neighbours got such a big boat in their back garden?  Maybe I should check the weather...'  But no, they just slouched around in their garden loungers with their leopards and their fringe-y ponchos which cover up nothing.  Better spend your time inflating a rubber ring, if you ask me.

The Flood James de Louther Bourg
Yes, yes, all very sad and no use crying about it now.  You've all been very naughty and God was very disappointed in you.  Naughty people!  Did no-one else have a boat handy?  Was everyone else too busy drinking and eating with their leopards to get the sandbags out and blow up a lilo?  Shameful stuff.  It's best not to think about it too much as it does seem quite harsh to believe God would just wipe everyone out, much like clearing the screen on an Etch-a-Sketch but that's the Old Testament for you.  Incidentally, my 8 year old daughter, Lily, has been learning religion at school but I feel some of the finer detail has been lost on her.  When I asked her what she learnt this week she said 'I learnt about the Bible.  It has two books, the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament is longer therefore it wins.'  You can't argue with that logic.

A Flood (1886) Leon Augustin Lhermitte
Moving away from the Bible, unsurprisingly images of flooding are relatively plentiful.  I think it is a common fear we all share, how our lives and lifestock can be swept away by water.  Thinking about literature, there are several instances of people/ways of life being metaphorically swept away by a flood (I am thinking of The Rainbow by D H Lawrence, for example) and there may be hints of that here.  While the above might be a straight forward image of a flood, it could equally be a comment on the family moving away from a traditional way of life, or maybe the rural communities moving to the town because their way of life had been lost.  Either way, floods seem to hit people as families, like the image of the Biblical flood above, possibly playing on our concerns for the more vulnerable members of our groups...

A Flood (1870) John Everett Millais
The Inundation (1856) Lawrence Alma Tadema
Not sure why you have to have a cat on your babies cradle, but babies and flood seem to go together like cheese and crackers.  Millais' baby seems to be having quite a nice time of it, bobbing along the reasonably calm waters, but Alma Tadema seems to envisage something out of Moby Dick.  That cat does not look happy.  It is very much a case of 'Won't somebody please think of the children!' and shows us the horror in flooding.  Water doesn't care, it will come along and steal your babies.  And your cats.

A Highland Flood  (1864) Edwin Henry Landseer
Because it's Victorian then it must be tartan.  I don't think there was any subject during the nineteenth century that couldn't be rendered more moving and filled with pathos than by setting it in the Highlands.  This poor family have lost everything, including many picturesque cattle, by a sweep of water.  They huddle with some sheep on a piece of higher ground and watch their lives being washed away.  I think I now see a very good reason for having a wooden crib for you child.  At least it would float.

Flood Sufferings (1890) Aby Altson
Over the last two months, I have seen umpteen reporters and politicians wading about the flooded areas stating the obvious and not really helping anyone.  It's good to know that two strapping lads will come and carry you out in a nice cosy stretcher if you get injured, but her floor has become a pond.  These heroic chaps don't have wading wellies on, they just rolled up their trousers and got on with it.  Inspiring stuff.

Princess Tarakanova (1864) Konstantin Dimitrievich
Possibly the strangest flood image I found was this one of Princess Tarakanova (or Tarakanoff) who was a pretender to the Russian throne.  In this dramatic telling of her story, she was drowned in the Peter and Paul Fortress where she was imprisoned (although she more likely died of tuberculosis) after being locked away for claiming she was related to royalty.  Here she is, dying in an off-the-shoulder number.  Well, if you have to go, you might as well get flooded in a nice frock.

The Story of the Flood Robert McGregor
Keep safe and dry, darling readers, I am thinking of you.  We live at the top of a hill so if we get flooded then everyone is in trouble, but I am considering trading in our car for a boat.  If it helps, bear in mind that more than likely in a few months time we will be well into Spring with the sun shining down on us and not a cloud in the sky.  I guarantee that by the end of summer there will be a hosepipe ban in Yorkshire and everyone will be complaining about how dry it is and how nice it would be to have a bit of rain.  These horrible couple of months will dry up eventually.  In the meantime, keep an eye on your neighbour.  If he starts building a really big boat, it's probably time to be nice to him...


  1. Had a good laugh at this ,great post!

  2. Very amusing post! Love Flood Sufferings by Aby Altson. What drew me to it was it's apparent Australian charm. Something about the colours, clothing and beard. And upon doing some research I saw that it was indeed painted in Australia (the city I live in in fact). Thank you :)

  3. As I write this I am aware that there is a thin shaft of sun-light dappling the conservatory in a very hopeful manner but frankly I don't fancy its chances.
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