Rather more worrying, however, was the rate at which the water was rising under the house. Both mill races were filling fast with a noisy swirling mass of brown foaming water, and there wasn't much that could be done. The dogs were wondering where their favourite places had suddenly disappeared to, and our garden was shrinking by the minute. Having consulted my nearest neighbours (who both live well up the hill), there was considerable shrugging of shoulders, rapid discussions about how the local town was flooded in the 1960's, and general previsions of doom. It appeared, also, that our lack of phone - indeed our lack of pole and wires, were not the only or the most pressing concern of France Telecom in the middle of a gale, and as darkness was falling, we were feeling a little isolated. Nothing for it then but to take matters into my own hands, drag the pole out of a flooded field and wade in to find the other end of the cable itself. A few freezing minutes with an electrical screwdriver and with fingers crossed that nobody would try to phone me whilst I had the two cables in my hand and my feet in a ditch full of water, resulted in the return of a dialling tone, and some more dire predictions from the localsd as to what the telecom engineers might do or say when they found out I had been meddling with their precious equipment.
Thus it was with some trepidation that we went upstairs to bed that evening, seriously wondering wether we should be moving valuables upstairs, or what we may face when we woke in the morning - all of a sudden the French habit of putting plug sockets half way up walls, and building an upstairs kitchen (recently removed) seemed to take on an altogether more sinister air. Luckily for us, the sun came out the next day, the rain stopped, and the waters gradually receded - but it had us worried for a moment, simply because it showed how quickly things can change.
A quick newsletterl to keep you all in touch with life in the Charente. Joanna, a good friend of ours, is holding Tillie, the latest addition to the menagerie and Jackie's 25 wedding anniversary present. Those of you who stayed with us in 2011 will have seen Tilly 'growing by the day', she's now taken up her rightful position as 'head of the pack' - Zac's too wimpy to protest and Bob's too old to complain. The summer was so hot that the Bramley apples literally cooked on the tree, runner beans are so stringy as to be inedible, and parsnips planted at the wrong (English) time of year emerge from the ground about 3 feet long and absolutely rock hard. One lives and learns.
THE WATER RISES....... Spot the difference! The rain came with a vengeance a few days before Christmas - torrential and persistent. The wind was blowing a biting gale and a telephone had been blown down up the road, rendering us 'incommunicado'. The friend who had been dog and housesitting fled as quickly as her 2CV would carry her, convinced that she would soon be swimming for her life. The water had engulfed the local fields, was running through the garden, and had almost completely submerged our island - the dog kennel was floating and luckily I'd moored up the boat this time, but as always (so far) the water stopped short of the house and we stayed dry. Photos taken as the water subsided give a good idea what the mill must have looked like at the beginning of the 20th Century when river levels were 'where they should be'.....
News from the Mill - Winter 2011/12