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Friday 20 April 2012

Flood time

My father told me how
when The Wandle flooded
their garden disappeared
and one of next door's chairs
became snagged on their fence.

He and his father watched
a neighbour's shed float by
and bric-a-brac turn in
where once their gate had been.
A tree was something new.

The flood had come at night
and not until the dawn
did they see Rags, the dog
marooned upon the chair,
a rag doll in its mouth.

My father watched his dad
set off along the path,
the water round his chest,
then saw him disappear.
Dad dived into the flood.

The water had removed
the manhole's covering.
His father had stepped in
and now was tightly wedged.
My father pulled him out,

then struck out after Rags.
They often tug-of-warred
with Nanny's old clothes prop,
so when it floated by
he tempted Rags to try.

Rags held it with his paws,
the doll still in his mouth.
Dad towed him to the house.
His father became ill,
swallowing the water,

but Rags still claimed the doll,
would not relinquish it.
He'd take it everywhere,
its dress tooth-marked and torn,
its face like one who'd drowned.


The Wandle is a tributary of the Thames. Some stretches are culverted, and have been for many years. In places the diversions are underground, but it has never been fully tamed, and in certain conditions it is apt to bubble up again as though demanding its old course back. The floods of my poem occurred in Wandsworth. Alas, I don't know the year, though obviously before my parents were married.


Rachel Green said...

Lovely piece. I'm so glad the dog survived. You could write an epic poem on this.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lovely poem Dave - reminded me of when the Witham flooded in Lincolnshire when I was a child. The water came almost to our back door before it began to subside. I had completely forgotten about it until your reminder. Thank you.

Elephant's Child said...

I love it. Thank you so much. And I am also glad that Rags survived.

Mary said...

What a heroic tale! And Rags is my hero.

Brian Miller said...

ugh great close on this one...rags with the doll that looks like a drowned girl...eep on falling in the man hole cover...lived through a few floods in my day...

Jim Murdoch said...

This is a great story. One I find hard to relate to having little firsthand experience of dogs. I see them often trotting after their masters with sticks or rubber balls gripped in their jaws, their tales swishing back and forth, looking very pleased with themselves, but I’ve never seen a cat (which is what we grew up with) grow possessive over anything especially. Our bird is. As I’ve mentioned before each morning I assemble his ‘castle’ atop his cage, constructed from cardboard boxes and ladders and mirrors which he immediately clambers all over and takes ownership of and then come bedtime when I tell him to get off so I can dismantle it—which he does, albeit reluctantly—he hisses at me as he sees each component being removed and, once I’m done, peers forlornly over edge at the pile of boxes on the floor. As I write this he’s gnawing away at an old Amazon box; he's chewed out one side almost completely and is halfway through the other side, destructive wee bugger that he is.

Windsmoke. said...

A very enjoyable little adventure indeed :-).

Dave King said...

Thanks - not sure about the epic, though!

The Weaver of Grass
Thanks Weaver. Happens a lot to me - that I read something on a blog and it reawakens a forgotten memory.

The Elephant's Child
Thanks for this. Yes, me too.

A deserving one. Much thanks.

Yes, I always found that part of the story a bit spooky.

Delightful story of the bird and the castle (sounds like a pub name!). Puts me in mind of the cat we had once (and the one mt daughter has) who has a passion for empty boxes. So did both of our children, come to think of it. At Christmas they would sometimes discard the present to play with the box. Must besomething deep in the universal psyche!

Thanks for this.