Thursday, August 08, 2002

We Londoners were given a small taste yesterday of what it must be like to live in, say, Shrewsbury or on the banks of the Ouse. For an hour or two, it rained, and I mean rained. I hadn't seen rain like this since I lived in Aafrika. [OK, I know a couple of inches of rain is hardly biblical, but we live in London - we're at a loss when anything, like, natural interrupts our lives.] We gathered at the office windows, watching the torrents of rain lash down, bracing ourselves for the short dash to the tube station. Then a bedraggled early-leaver came back in and announced: "The tube station is shut due to flooding."

I figured I'd wait it out but the rain didn't show any signs of abating by six, so I made a run for it, up Finchley Road, to Finchley Road station. God, it was raining. The road was like a river, with cars hydroplaning across large bodies of water, whooshing wakes behind them. I spotted a surreal sight: a waterfall was gushing out into the street from inside a Thai restaurant. Huh? But no time to stop and ponder that, I was wet wet wet, running, laughing, soaking, just hoping that Finchley Road station would be open. The crowds of annoyed, damp commuters outside it confirmed my fears - it wasn't.

I couldn't face the thought of a packed, steaming bus, and the rain was finally letting up, so I chose to walk home. The lower ground floor of the O2 Centre was closed - the floor of Sainsbury's was under an inch of water, double the consumer items in a reflecting mirror. I picked my way around the lake that had appeared in the centre's car park, finally remembering my camera:

The narrow lane between the car park and West End Lane was blocked by a large puddle a couple of inches deep. Some enterprising chaps made their way around it on a narrow wall, clinging precariously to the fence. I just took my shoes off, rolled my trousers up and paddled.

Once those crowds of angry commuters had given up on trying to get home by public transport, they seemed liberated, welcoming the challenge, chatting to strangers. I left my shoes off for a bit, walking barefoot on city pavements. I arrived home damp but happy, only to be greeted by another surreal sight - steam was geysering out of a tiny hole in the pavement.

Later that night, watching the news, I counted myself lucky I didn't live just a hundred metres further west. Cricklewood Lane was thigh-deep.

We had a minor disaster later that night, probably unrelated - a fuse blew, knocking out the fridges, washing machine and hot water. Our landlord is away on holiday. James - the other lodger - and I each hoped the other would know something about electrics. Nope. We screwed open the cover of the antiquated fuse box, hoping we'd be able to see what the problem was, and know how to fix it. Nope. We screwed it back on, left a message on the landlord's phone and went to bed.

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