I wait. I wait for a storm that is due to storm through this area of southern Scotland where I live over these next few days. It is December and we know to be prepared for winter weather as we head towards the shortest day, but this storm is to bring high winds and heavy rain which we are warned will bring down trees and flood our rivers. Roads will become impassable and power may go down. Weekend plans for Christmas shopping are put on hold. Emergency services are on standby. I spend time making sure my mother has everything she needs and retreat to my own well stocked and warm home and I wait.
This storm has a name. Desmond is the reason I retreat, cancel plans, stay warm, stay safe. Colleagues at my place of work must work through this long weekend as we wait for this storm to hit. They will keep our community informed about fallen trees, road closures, swollen riverbanks. They are on high alert. Emergency standby. I place myself on standby in solidarity, ready to join them if required. I watch the forecast and the updates they place on social media. I watch the wind as it whips plants and trees in my garden. I watch the rain as it falls steadily and imagine the rivers and streams across our community becoming fuller and fiercer with the constant falling of this constant rain. I wait.
The evening passes and I prepare to sleep. I check the latest updates and know there is little I can do but rest and be prepared for what the morning might bring. I fasten windows and secure doors. I phone my mother to check she has done the same. My cats are safely indoors. My neighbours are safely home. I turn out my lights and prepare to sleep.
I allow my cats to curl beside me, a rare comfort for they rarely sleep at my side. But tonight I allow this exception and we comfort each other through a night where the wind is wild and the rain is heavy. I think about my colleagues working through the night, keeping our community up to date as this storm called Desmond storms through our small part of southern Scotland. I think about my mother and hope that she is sleeping through this long night. I tell myself I should have stayed with her, watched over her, made sure she was safe. I tell myself she is fine, fast asleep and safe in her warm bed in her warm home. I check that the power is still working and with the light of my bedside light chasing away my shadows, I tell myself that we are all safe. I turn off the light, slow my breathing, quiet my mind and sleep.
I wake early. I have slept deeply but recall troubled dreams. I let them go. I focus on my relief to find that I have power. I make coffee and turn to my computer to check what my colleagues have been telling our community throughout this long night. Aah. Trees have come down. Roads have been closed. Cars have been abandoned. A river has flooded and residents moved to a place of warmth and safety. A rest centre has opened.
It could have been worse, much much worse. But there is more from Desmond to come throughout this next day. For now it could have been worse but we must wait to see what this next day brings.
I venture out. I wrap up warm and start my car. I keep to the main roads where I know hard working workmen have worked throughout the night to keep these main routes open. I check on my mother, keeping our normal Saturday routine as normal as possible, making sure she has all the supplies she needs, making sure her house is clean and tidy and warm. She is 89, frail, increasingly housebound and increasingly reliant. But grateful, profoundly grateful for all the support I give her. The Scotsman. Sherry trifle. Cream cheese. Minestrone soup. Jaffa cakes. Today her needs are few, her shopping list easily filled. Even on a day of high alert when the wind continues to blow and the rain to fall.
I offer to stay at my mother’s house. I offer to bring her to mine. But we decide to remain independent, to keep in touch. I will visit tomorrow. I return to the main road and head toward my home. The wind has strengthened and any plans I have for resuming my Christmas shopping plans are discarded. My car is shaken by a gust strong enough to move it sideways on the road. I grip the wheel and concentrate. The roads are busy with drivers driving more quickly than I am. I remain steady, I want to be safe.
I am home. I check for updates. Desmond has decided to bite deeper. There are now 20 flood warnings in place. Thirteen roads are reported as being treacherous or impassable. There will be many more. A further supply of sandbags is ordered as river levels continue to rise. Police advise drivers to drive only if absolutely necessary. Winds will not abate until the early morning. Heavy rain will fall for another 24 hours.
As dusk begins to fall, I think of my colleagues, another long night ahead. I wait. I stay safe at home and write the words in solidarity of those who experience the brunt of this storm called Desmond that batters our community. I wait.
The eye of Storm Desmond moves eastwards and my community begins to pick up the pieces. The impact has been much worse further south, in the north-east of England, where flooding has been severe and it will be many weeks before their lives return to any form of normal. Here we expect more rain over the week, but hope that the worst is over. We are at the beginning of winter, in December, in Scotland, so know to expect the unexpected. We have been reminded of the power of Nature, a reminder that all too often comes our way but is too soon forgotten as we become busy again with life, with deadlines, with stress and pressure, until the next time.