Fresh Thoughts #100: Everyday Resilience

Tea Cup with Flowers in the background

The farm next door has been trying to get its winter crops into the ground since October.
"It's not going to happen.
It's too wet.
At least the seed is still in the bags, so it will keep until next year."

That was before Storm Henk came along last Tuesday evening.
As expected - the downpour created both surface and river flooding.
And the Community Flood Wardens swung into action.

"Road Closed" signs were deployed.
Volunteers helped drivers get home for dinner - telling them where the worst affected areas were.
Wellies were lent and returned.
The nearest farmers checked horses and sheep to support the farmers stuck on the other side of the water.

Then, at 5 pm - the power went out.
Estimated restore time... 8 pm.

For 60 years, my elderly neighbour has insisted on an electric oven and gas hob for this eventuality.
"Would you and the children like a cup of tea?"

Unfortunately, we had to decline as it was time to cook dinner by candlelight.
Deploying the lanterns usually tucked away on window sills waiting for this kind of situation.

Right - dinner.
It wasn't extravagant - mainly because the extractor fan was electric, so we didn't want to boil too many pans.
Oven chips, veggie nuggets, peas and sweetcorn.

The children were excited.
"We're having a very romantic and expensive candle-lit dinner..."

A new estimated restore time... 3 am.
Right - check all the lights are switched off.
We don't need an early morning wake-up - when they come back on.
Bedtime stories by torch and candlelight.
"It's like we're camping."

While checking on the animals again, I bumped into the farmer next door.

"At home - the water's over the flood wall.
Is it going to be a problem?
No. The hallway rug's on the table... and it's a solid concrete floor.
It's designed to do this.
There's a plug in the corner to make washing down easy tomorrow."

On Wednesday & Thursday, the river peaked - at the highest level recorded.
The postponed trip to the pharmacy was completed.
And life returned to normal, albeit with a long detour to avoid the flood water.


Meanwhile, short video interviews started to be published - showing we were not unique.

Several comments from a row of flooded terraces in Tewksbury sounded familiar:
"We live with the river. Normally, the flood barrier is enough, but there's a bit more than usual today."

"It's a little bit worse than 2007. That flood happened in the summer, so the weather wasn't quite as cold."

"The cats are on the third and fourth floors. They have a few days of food and a litter tray... hopefully, they won't poop elsewhere."

By the weekend, the river had returned to normal levels.
And the fields on the floodplain are still draining - at a controlled rate - so downstream doesn't have issues.
Only then did the headlines start reading.
"Lives ruined..."
It must have been a slow news day.

Final Thoughts

Three things make resilience much easier:

  • Prioritise what matters most.
  • Design processes and systems with failure in mind.
  • Create options when things inevitably fail.

My neighbour prioritised her tea drinking.
And for the last 60 years - despite the countless power cuts and flood warnings - she has never gone without.

January 9, 2024
3 Minutes Read

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