Tuesday, July 24, 2007

32.78m AOD

That is the height, in metres, that the lowest corner of my house at damp course level is 'Above Ordnance Datum'.

I know this because a few years ago some chappies were at the end of the road doing hard hat/high-vis jackety-type things with levels, and I asked them to give me that measurement.

I figured it would come in handy one day.

Hopefully it still will. I am a great believer in prevention being better than cure, so rather than mopping out the utility room and having a fight with the loss adjuster, I would like to try and make my house as flood proof as possible, against the chance that this 'one in a hundred year event' might happen again next month.

Thing is, I am not off to the best of starts.

The best the Environment Agency floodline could come up with was the offer of a sandbag. Now I am sure they are better than nothing, but I have a few grander plans in mind. Slotted posts with neoprene sleeves to accommodate tapered slats, for one. Quick to erect. Easy to store. With luck, using the best of Junkk.com. Already I have sealed the (now defunct) dryer outlet with a nifty sweet can lid that slid over a treat.

But to figure out what's for the best I need to know what height to make them. And this is proving an effort. I can't seem to get any sense out of anyone so far on what 'might' happen. Which makes planning tricky.

All I have managed so far is to get on a list that sends an email to tell me I'm about to be flooded if I'm in. And a text if I'm out. And as to the brook alongside that is copping the run-off from the new housing estate on the hillside farmland, that's not included as it is another department.


ADDENDUM - You want some fun? Try getting a definition for Ordnance Datum, much less what it is in your vicinity.

The best I have, so far, is:

chart datum Set reference point on charts for water depth in relation to tides. On metric charts for which the UK Hydrographic Office is the charting authority, chart datum is a level as close as possible to Lowest Astronomical Tide (LAT), the lowest predictable tide under average meteorological conditions (from Ministry of Defence, 1987). This is not the same as Ordnance Datum, the fixed reference point for heights and contours shown on Ordnance Survey maps, which is based on mean sea level (MSL) as recorded at Newlyn (Cornwall) over a seven-year period from 1915 to 1921.


Having signed up to them, I just had an automated mobile call and email to tell me to 'stand down'. So that seemed to work, at least.

Sadly this is not going to help me with the fact that the continued high levels seem to have opened a breech between the brook and my cellar such that the pumps are now working 24/7. I fear I need to get tanking. ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££:(

Telegraph - Bogged down with bureaucracy

My pride and joy Hummer - What a bummer!

An interesting article from last Friday's Belfast Telegraph reporting on an act of eco-vandalism that has divided the USA into two factions.

A poor ( intentional ironic pun ) chap has had his Hummer severely beaten up by a gang of eco-warriors who caused $12,000 worth of damage to his pride and joy.

The really odd thing is that although polls in the US show that more and more Americans are becoming environmentally aware, the hardest thing for them to give up is their gas-guzzlers. As the New York Post put it - “We buy gas guzzlers, but we vote for gas sipping.”

And, yes, you've guessed it, the sale of Hummers is still on the way up - "in June, according to the latest figures from General Motors, the world’s largest car manufacturer, Hummer sales were up by 11 per cent."

I bet Arnie's glad his runs on Hydrogen! Mind you, imagine the bang if they managed to split the fuel tank on his with a baseball bat!

The funny side of things

There is always a humorous side to everything, and Matt of The Telegraph inevitably manages to produce a cartoon that sums things up in a way that can make everyone smile.

Genius is a rare thing, but Matt has it in spades.

I predict a riot

Oh, dear. This if this is the best we can do I'd advise buying bigger wellies - Newsnight Floods

Unpredicted power cuts. Something without precedent I am sure at the BBC. It must be climate change. Lessons must be learned. Debates will be had. But, for now, let's move on.

First up, let me just say how bang on - 'watching TV without electricity. LOL' - almost all the comments have been so far, and forgive me for rehashing any, but there is much to rake over.

'Without precedent'. So says Dear Leader and his gang. Well, is/was it, or not? Especially if, as advised, 1903 was the wettest on record and 1947 & 1956 were a tad damp, too. And what has happened 'was no different' to 1968 in the West Midlands or 1912 in East Anglia.

Which rather makes a mockery of 'Acts of God' along with 'No one could have predicted'.

Surely to [that same invoked entity] this was entirely predictable, and should have been anticipated. And as we are getting hit with climate change awareness communications (via PR and massively-funded ad campaigns of questionable value) daily, might we not suppose that in a joined up government a projection may have been made from such historical data, a few factors such as increased population, consequent building, drainage and run off bolted on, to arrive at the notion that, at some stage, it was going to happen again, and maybe even a bit worse?

I have never heard such woeful backsliding, and backside covering so far (with a prediction of more totally precedented examples to come).

If Mr. Brown's solution so far is to swim in and promise a bit more money to make up for what he was part of removing in the past, I'd say the only bounce from any location near water he'd see if he called an election was out! How long are we going to be treated to an erasing of any complicity in the last decade, when all those responsible for what is happening now were part of the obvious failures in policy and action (with all due, obligatory, praise to those at the sharp... er, wet... end of the public service delivery systems who actually have to mop up their bosses' foul-ups) that has brought us to this point?

And if... when this money arrives, forget the Environment Agency two Labour MPs so virulently trashed various for 'rubbish systems' on this very point (this would be the same Agency a Minister of Government subsequently has very confidence in? How disjointed is that!?), how can we trust this shambolic bunch to utilise any more cash any more effectively than they have already? We have the evidence of our own pruny toes to show what they are capable of at a strategic level. The only defensive systems I see deployed so far are career-covering words. As Baroness Young said: 'there is no accounting'. Quite.

I'm not quite sure how many Ministers of Mud (Ok, the environment) we deserve, but Mr. Phil 'No Point Trying' Woolas was an inspired choice of spokesperson to help us through this. 'Not the time for lessons learned', just as all around are trying to bail themselves out by rehashing this rather tired mantra enough times in the hope it will all soon pass over. And speaking of tired mantras, there is, apparently, 'a big debate to be had'. Well we're having it now matey, and the likes of you are looking pretty poor in the showing so far.

Was he really saying that as it was going to be really bad the lack of doing anything in some places was excusable. With a system that is claimed to be totally 'fluid' (excuse the pun) from one hour to the next, you don't even try? And big up to the commenter who noted he doesn't seem to have grasped the Thames Barrier's actual function. Funny if not tragic. It sure doesn't fill me with much confidence in the competence being brought to bear so far.

And Newsnight, why, oh why do you persist with the 'twofer' bookend debate style. Actually the flood victim lady was at least quite well-informed and confident, but for an issue this massive she's all we get to go head to head with a Minister backed by a bazillion assistants and briefings (not that it did him much good)?

And as a tax, local rate and licence fee payer with the River Wye looking to do the same thing one day, and wishing to prevent a lot more than I can cure or see excluded on insurance, why did we not get an answer to the question of DEFRA's Flood Resistance Grants? I would like, no... need... no... demand to know!

Along with why we are not spending money wisely on tangible preventative measures as opposed to p*ssing it all away on more and more quangos and ad campaigns to make 'us' aware on our carbon footprints. I'm pretty sure some were quite relieved that 4x4s and bottled water (last week was it that Newsnight jumped on that trivial bandwagon?) were still available at the moment, and a bit more concerned about the much bigger carbon footprint pictures that might be responsible for such massive natural phenomena.

So let's not just look to the skies to explain what has happened on the ground here. I'm afraid what I am seeing and hearing is indeed caused by man (PC-alert: men and women), but mostly all living in one small village in Westminster.

I was more than interested in the Climate Change discussion (no so much a debate as they were really agreeing with each other) between Meteorologist of 30 years' experience Philip Eden, and environmentalist of, er, no obvious fixed qualification, George Monbiot. An interesting pairing.

I'd have loved to have seen Mr. Eden across the table from Mr. Brown or Woolas to hear them deal with the fact that there was indeed plenty of precedent, and all this could be and indeed has been predicted. Maybe even mitigated?

In fact this should be the end of the story, along with their over-spun careers. But no, one can say almost anything outright wrong and get away with it pretty easily these days.

Especially in the current media climate where there is an attention span... of oh, that's all we have time for. Meanwhile, in other news... I for one would like to return to the hundreds more concerned with Jeremy's tie. Not.

I'll leave the final words to the only qualified scientist I heard all night: 'If this is what happens within our current limits of experience, what is going to happen in the future?' I'm just not sure if he was talking about the weather, or the guys tasked to help us address its consequences.