The calm after the storm – first published 30 January 2013

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At the end of January 2013 the weather wasn’t playing nicely. Gales, rain and abandoned umbrellas filled my walks to and from work. At work the RNLI saga continued, much to my exasperation. Some weeks seem to be nothing but a series of irritations and this was one of them.

30 January 3013   

Yesterday started badly. Somehow I’d managed to switch my alarm to radio and it wasn’t on a satation. It took a while for the static hum to break through my jumbled dream and wake me. I was in a field interviewing people about some kind of music event I think.
“Get the bus this morning,” Commando said when I finally got downstairs, “the rain was horizontal and I couldn’t open my car door at first because the wind was blowing against it so hard.”
Just what I wanted to hear when I was already running late and feeling quite groggy after the sudden jumping out of bed dashing about swearing thing.

I nursed a tiny hope things would get better before I had to leave. They didn’t! The rain had eased but it felt like needles in my face because of the high winds. Much as I enjoy walking to work there are limits and high winds with added rain cross the line, especially as, whichever way I walk, I have a high bridge to cross. Even in moderate winds it sometimes feels as f I’m going to be blown over the side or into the traffic. So, for the first time in ages, I found myself catching the bus to work. Surprisingly I got a seat and it wasn’t even next to a muttering nutter, a tramp or a drunk. Wonders will never cease.

My desk was piled high with deliveries, films back from the ship, palm crosses to send out for Palm Sunday, magazines to get on the next flight plus some expenses and contracts. It took a while to sort it all out. Half way through the morning the Poppy Man came in with a receipt for the collection. After he’d left, Alice said, “At least he’s easier to deal with than the RNLI people.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said. “Thank heavens I won’t have to speak to them again until the next tin comes back, hopefully it will take ages to fill.”

Just then the phone rang. Speak of the devil, it was the RNLI man, as if I’d conjured him up somehow. We went through his life story and the foreign coins in the collection tin again, all the while I could hear his wife in the background egging him on “Tell her…”
Turned out he had some new collection tins for me.
“We’ll be there in half an hour,” he said. “We won’t come in the car park because we had such a job getting back out before. I’ll park on the road outside and phone you on my mobile.”
Just what I needed with it blowing a gale, last time they kept me outside talking for ages and I didn’t have a coat on. That day it was only cold.

An hour later he rang to say he was outside so I went down with my coat and a heavy heart. The wind nearly took me off my feet. There were several parked cars and I couldn’t remember what theirs was like so I walked up and down the road peering into each one worried I would be arrested for kerb crawling. They were all empty. Cursing I looked around wondering where they could have got to, probably the wrong building given how much trouble they had finding us last time. In the end I spotted them as I walked past the car park. They were parked inside again!

There was another round of life story/grumbles about foreign coins.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with them all,” Mrs RNLI said.
“I’m sure the bank will take them,” I told her for the hundredth time.
“We gave them to our head office and they said they have a place they take them to,” she said.
Had I stepped into some kind of parallel universe? What was she moaning about if she’d  given them to head office? Honestly, there must be other charities crying out for money. Eventually I managed to pry the new boxes out of their arthritic old hands and, with a final, “I hope these ones have a bit more money in, there was only eighteen pounds in English money in that last one you know…” I managed to scurry away before I got involved in helping them get out of the car park.

Despite the wind and rain I couldn’t resist hiding in the doorway to see how long it took. Must be my sadistic side coming out. First they drove towards the automatic barrier which rose as it’s meant to. Instead of driving through they looked at it like it was going to come crashing down on their car if they went under. They sat in the car for a bit, talking to each other then started trying to reverse back out onto the main road. After a while, Mrs RNLI got out to direct from behind. At that point I gave up and went inside wondering if they’d still be out there at five-thirty when I left work.

All change with the weather today. This morning there were blue skies and, shock horror, no rain! What a difference a day makes. There was plenty of evidence of the recent rain and wind. On the playground my boys called the Old School, because it was built on the site of a school, the basketball court was almost overwhelmed with giant puddles. It wasn’t all blue sky and sun either, there were plenty of clouds along my route. As I crossed the Big Bridge I eyed them suspiciously, wondering if there would be rain before I made it to the office.

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There were a fair few branches scattered about on the pavements, some of them quite large. Seeing them made me glad I didn’t walk home last night, Somehow I don’t find the idea of a branch landing on my head very appealing. By the time I got to the industrial estate by the stadium the clouds seemed to be burning off. The cranes and buildings looked almost beautiful silhouetted against the blue of the sky and the rising sun. On the last leg of the journey an abandoned umbrella lay broken in the bushes beside the path yet more evidence of the stormy night. Close by some little catkins hung on the branches of a hazel bush, maybe spring is on the way. I hope so.

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When I sat at my desk I noticed I had a bit of a pain in my lower back. I have no idea where that came from. It was mainly on the right side, especially when I stretched out my arm to reach for something. It made me wince when I moved and in the end I took some painkillers. At lunch time it seemed far too nice not to go out so I decided to have a wander through the parks to see if moving about would help.

We are so lucky to have so many lovely parks right in the middle of the city. I strolled up through Hoglands Park then across the road to Houndwell Park. By then I was almost in the centre and the idea of a nice latte crossed my mind. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a lunch time latte and I was feeling a little sorry for myself because of the pain in my back so I popped into Pret A Manger. There wasn’t even a queue, which is unusual. Pretty soon I was outside clutching my skinny latte and walking down towards the Bargate. At least it was a skinny one and I resisted all the lovely cakes and chocolate bars.

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Sipping my coffee I stopped for a moment to snap a picture of the seagulls circling the Bargate and then turned down to skirt the edge of the parks and make my way back to the office. As I walked I remembered a story Mother told me many years ago about Hoglands Park. During the blitz there was a huge public air raid shelter under the park and during the terrible blitz of Novemebr 1940 the shelter suffered a direct hit, killing all inside. It was the worst night of bombing and the city was devastated as the bombers tried to destroy the spitfire factory across the water in Woolson. The dead remain buried under the park to this day and there is a small memorial. As I watched people strolling in the park enjoying the sunshine, I wondered if they knew they were walking over a mass grave. It certainly put the little ache in my back into perspective.

Hoglamds Park
Hoglamds Park

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The lunchtime walk may have provided a little food for thought and a nice cup of coffee but it didn’t do much for my back, it was aching all afternoon. When my phone rang I hoped it was Arabella as I have a pile of things on my desk I can’t deal with until I speak to her. It wasn’t. It was the RNLI! Thankfully it wasn’t Mr or Mrs RNLI this time, calling just to make sure I remembered their life story, although at first the call was almost as confusing.

“Can I speak to Jane please?” a male voice asked.
“No one called Jane works here. Are you sure you have the right number?”
“This is Silver Helm isn’t it?”
“Yes, but we don’t have anyone called Jane here. Could you tell me what it’s about, I may be able to help.”
“I’m calling from the RNLI, I understand you have some collection tins you need me to pick up.”
“Um, no, there was only one and it’s already been collected.”
“Oh, I had a call to say you were waiting for someone to come and collect two tins. I normally deal with Jane.”

That was when I remembered the PA before the PA before me was called Jane. “There used to be a Jane working here years ago, perhaps it was her you dealt with? I’m sorting out the collection tins now but ours was picked up by an elderly couple,” by now I was a little worried they were scammers going round stealing collection tins. It would explain a lot, although, if that was the case, I’d have expected them to be a little less inept and certainly less memorable. “Their phone number was on the bottom of the tin,” I told him, as much to convince myself they were genuine than anything.
“Ah, that explains it then,” he said. It didn’t explain anything to me.
“They seemed a little confused,” I said, an understatement if ever I uttered one.
“That’ll be Mr and Mrs RNLI, they used to be the collectors and their phone number is on the bottom of all the tins. They both retired years ago though.” That much I knew because I’d had their whole life history at least six times. “Jane always used to call me to collect the tins. Did they leave you any new tins or would you like me to get some out to you?”

I assured him I didn’t need any more tins because Mr and Mrs RNLI had bought some this week and I took his number. At least next time I will have someone who’s sounds relatively sane to deal with which is a relief. I’m still confused as to who called him to say we needed a collection and why on earth they haven’t changed the phone numbers on the bottom of the tins, it’s only on a sticker after all, surely someone knows how to write on a label and stick it on? Then again, maybe not.

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

7 thoughts on “The calm after the storm – first published 30 January 2013”

  1. Muttering Nutter? I love it! Can I use it on my kids?
    So did they just leave the bodies there where they lay?

    1. There are lots of muttering nutters around these oarts, occasionaly I am one of them :). Sadly, during the devastating bombing at the end of Novemebr and beginning of December 1940 more than one underground air raid shelter suffered a direct hit. The city was in turmoil. There were so many buildings destroyed and the city centre was reduced to smouldering rubble. over 2,300 bombs and more than 30,000 incendiary devices were dropped on the city. Nearly 45,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in this small city. There were reports that the glow of the firestorm of Southampton burning could be seen from as far away as Cherbourg on the coast of France. Even putting out the fires took days and search and rescue was impossible and probably would have been futile. It wasn’t possible to recover all the bodies and, as far as I can tell, they are still buried there. War is a terrible thing.

      1. It is so fantastically amazing what we are capable of doing to each other. I often wondered about the mixture of old architecture and new architecture in London and if it was indeed due to bombings destroying buildings.

        1. It was Christina. My own city is much the same. A few older buildings in the centre survived and, thankfully, so did the medieval walls, but many buildings were lost and today the old ones stand out against the new. Even where I live, in a village in the suburbs, there were three Bomb sites within spitting distance of my house and mother said all our ceilings came down and our windows came in.

  2. Before September 11th I always felt thankful to be so far away from Europe, a whole ocean. Europe might have beautiful architecture and culture and history, but we were SAFE!! Then September 11th happened.

    1. Nowhere is truly safe I think. All we can do is look for the good and the beauty and hope it isn’t us or those we love when the next bad thing happens. After 9/11 and the London bombs I spent a long time being scared, then I realised if I let it stop me doing things they’d won. It can happen anywhere after all so I may as well enjoy what I can when I can.

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