Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rain, Rain and More Rain

Rain, rain, and more rain - to our water logged spirits it felt like it had rained for forty days or forty nights. Thank goodness not days and nights. With the ‘and’ the river would have spilled over it’s banks and into the valley plane. 

Our small village is particularly beautiful because it is divided in two by the River Dronne. On the left bank the houses are all situated well up above the river. Houses on the right bank sit seemingly at river level. It’s the right bank where things can get exciting when the river waters start to creep out of their bed. 
Last summer the Dronne was only ankle deep. We were all moaning about the lack of water and worried that the water table was disappearing. Our tunes have changed after the rains we have had all through December and January, the 3rd wettest period since 1904. You can see water standing between the furrows in fields high up on the ridge, there are unexpected ponds in the fields at the bottom of the valley, and rivulets of running water in the roadside ditches. Ducks are paddling about in new places and we are tired of changing our shoes and socks every time we venture outside.
Sunday morning found a bunch of us standing on the old bridge watching the water roiling angrily around the ancient stone abutments. Was she or wasn’t she going to keep coming up? The rain had stopped for the moment, but there was the question of wether the waters would continue to mount throughout the day. Would this be the year that our gentle Dronne showed us her malevolent side?

The swirling current of the river seemed to wind up the spirits on the bridge. There were animated guesses about whether the up-river dam was opened yet or not? - if not, oh my! You could tell that folks were kind of hoping for a spectacle.

None of the folks on the bridge had homes that were within reach of the rising waters. But, that had not always been true. Before the damn was constructed up stream the Dronne had been much more capricious. If it rained all winter there was no controlling the spreading waters that raced down the valley, bumped into the chateau’s cliff and spread through the wisely empty fields. 

Out on the bridge old timers started competing to tell the best flood story.

“My mother remembers a day when the flood waters were coming up and up. At the time they kept their animals on the ground floor. There were rabbits in cages and a pig in her pen. The rabbit cages were high enough that they would be fine even if the water entered the house.  That pig was a different story. They had a choice to stay awake all night watching for water entering or to bring the pig upstairs - and so they brought the pig upstairs.”
“One year the water got so high that the bakery’s ovens were under water.”

“The year I bought my house there were swans in the parking lot and I had to buy wellingtons to close the deal at the bank up in Brantome. To this day I can’t figure out how the bank stayed open surrounded by water. When asked if I lived in a flood plane I had to tell them that an hour ago the water was 4 inches away from the front door stoop. Thank goodness for the 3 inch threshold as it actually was just enough to keep the waters out. I discovered a funny thing about our right bank that day -the water goes straight down the street to the bakery. Who knew that there was a slant to the street and a better chance of water entering the back of the house than the front that faces the river?”
“I’ve heard tell of a morning when the students came down the hills of the right bank and there was no way to get across for school. To their great disappointment there no such luck as a ‘flood day’ because a neighbor was there with a little fishing boat to ferry them across the flooded fields.”
Everyone on the bridge agreed that as long as the water hadn’t gotten to the end of the little grass ramp there would be no flooding around the buildings. We all headed off to finish our Sunday morning errands. We knew we’d see each other again towards the end of the day when we came back to check on the water’s level.

The rains have stopped being a daily event since then and the River Dronne is back in her banks. There is still no place to walk that isn’t wet and slippery. The skies remain grey, but along the river bank there are now daffodils and the waters gurgle along with less anger and urgency on their way down to Bordeaux.