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Storms, Floods and Family Reunions

Oct 27, 2023 | The Grand Adventure | 10 comments

It’s probably fair to say I spent around six months planning a family reunion with my first cousins in Kent on 21st October 2023. I sent endless emails, found the (dog-friendly) venue, coordinated menus, and booked accommodation. Everything was going swimmingly until a couple of days before. That’s when Storm Babet hit. 

Russell and I planned to drive to Kent on 20th October 2023, to stay with my friend Aidan in Royal Tunbridge Wells. The next day, the family reunion was taking place in a nearby village—perfect organisation.

Except that it started raining on 19th October and didn’t stop for three days. It turned out to be one of the wettest three-day periods in England and Wales since 1891. We had gusting winds, persistent rain, widespread flooding, and landslides. Over 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, the power went out, public transport came to a grinding halt, and businesses lost billions of pounds in revenue.

Blissfully unaware, Russell and I set off on the morning of 20th October and got precisely a quarter of a mile from home when we came across the first flooded road. We turned around to go an alternative route only to find another flooded road. We did this several more times, desperate to make our way to the A12 (the main road out of Suffolk), only to be thwarted at every attempt. 

We tried for three hours. We drove through some of the floods, cut across private farm roads, and took every backroad we could think of. Eventually, we gave up and made our way home. We had to forge one last flooded road to get back into our village, and within an hour, Dennington ‘Island’ was completely isolated. High and dry, but cut off from the outside world.

We decamped to the pub where several unfortunate motorists were sheltering, unable to get home. Some had been forced to abandon their cars and escape on foot. Local farmers were out in force with their tractors, dragging cars out of the flood waters, while other locals were offering spare beds to strangers.

We missed our night in Royal Tunbridge Wells with our friends, but we were the lucky ones.  This is what our local town, Framlingham, looked like that day. It’s just three miles away.

We listened to the rain pounding on the roof for the next few hours, willing it to stop. We had to get out the next day, or I would be the only one who missed the family reunion. One of my cousins, Sue, had flown over from Canada, and I hadn’t seen most of them for 25 years or more.

Here we all are (with the red dots), circa 1965.  I was four or five at the time and the youngest of nine first cousins on my father’s side. My little brother, Patrick, had yet to make his appearance in the world, but then he couldn’t make it to the reunion in 2023 either, so he’s not in any of the shots.

Look at my two glamorous older cousins—Sue and Penny—on the right, with their sixties hairdos and all the men and boys in ties. It must have been a special family occasion at Auntie Trish and Uncle John’s house because I’m in my favourite party dress and buckled shoes.

The morning after Storm Babet, the rain eased, and some of the roads were clear. The journey to Kent was just over two hours, but we allowed four. We held our breath as we drove the long way round to the A12, praying we would get through. 

We made it!

And here we are, my brother Magnus and my seven first cousins, almost 60 years after that last photo was taken. What a special day.

As an added bonus, we even managed to catch up with Aidan and his family the next day for Sunday lunch before heading home to a slightly damp, but unscathed Dennington. And we were greeted by this wonderful full rainbow.

The storm had definitely passed. 

10 Comments

  1. I didn’t know that (about the photo being taken outside your parent’s house). I do remember Trish being a wonderful aunt, so I’m sure it was a very happy occasion! So good to see you in the UK after all these years

  2. That was such a special day and we all so appreciated the huge effort you put into arranging it. Was simply super to see my lovely cousins. Not only were there flooded roads but also several bad traffic accidents which delayed some in getting to the pub. By the way, that first photo was taken outside my parents’ house, Prinsted, not Granny’s. I don’t know the occasion but my mother was fond of family reunions.

  3. Even from hospital! Thanks, Jill

  4. Thanks, Simmo!

  5. Lemonie what an extraordinary reunion, I feel quite damp. Well weathered. Onyer. Simmo xx

  6. Well done you two! Mel, I don’t have to imagine how much effort you put into soires, Den and I experienced it first hand at your lovely beach house, albeit you weren’t there, you had decided Cairns base hospital was a better place for you at the time.
    You create so many happy/ fun memories. Thank you. Xx Jill

  7. Thanks, Dubsie. It was all worth it in the end

  8. Yes, I was lucky to find the old photo of us all. I’d love to say I hadn’t changed a bit, but I was only 4 so a bit hard to pull off! Hope you’re enjoying your travels too, Leslie.

  9. How stressful , but a wonderful outcome xx

  10. What an ordeal, love the past and present photos, your persistence paid off, Good on you Mel

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