As per our English Literature Christmas Holiday Seminar task requires, we must write a ‘blog post’ on one of two topics. I chose misinterpretation and thought, ‘Why not post it on here?’.
So, to all of my Seminar fellows, welcome to Nefelibata. To all of my regular readers, or those of you who have the misfortune to stumble across this blog frequently; strap yourself in for a tale of unexciting, misunderstood, ad-ven-ture.
Be aware, in my life nothing happens to me, at all, and that Christmas is one of my least favourite times of the year.
So, all of this drama and uncertainty is a new one for me, and ‘Bah Humbug’ to the rest of the world:
Approx. 22:29pm, Saturday 4th December 2015
Torrential rain all day, with slight flooding in Cumbria as of Friday and Saturday
Approx. 22:30pm, Saturday 4th December 2015
Blackout on University Campus
Major power loss throughout Lancaster and Morecambe, with severe flooding in Cumbria
No phone service
Phone battery at 18%
Sunday 5th December 2015
Electricity has not been reinstated due to flooding in the local substation
Water supply has been cut off
Phone networks are still also down, but with limited signal in some areas
Phone battery at 8%
I woke on Sunday to find that my source of water was drying up, so quickly gathered some containers to save what little came out of the taps; because if nothing is coming out of the taps, how can you expect the toilet to flush without any extra water?
Simple, you can’t.
Knowing my situation wasn’t the best, and that there was no way of finding out the local news if I didn’t have a network connection, I ventured out at about half ten that morning to contact my college’s porter. On finding the porter’s office devoid of human life, a notice had been posted that basically told me that nobody knew anything of when the power and water would be turned back on.
Without any water to drink and use from the taps, I needed to go out and buy some bottled water.
Easier said than done.
The University central store near to my accommodation was closed, and the Spar shop located in the heart of the campus had a line stretching from the front door and beyond. They’d run out before I got to the front of the cue, so I’d have to venture into town if I wanted any water.
That would also be an interesting journey, as the bus services were not running (torrential rain had flooded the underpass in which students could catch busses). It would be pot luck finding a bus travelling around the edge of campus.
On my journey to the nearest bus stop, I just missed one-
Only for a good Samaritan to pull over in his car and ask if I and anyone else at the stop would like a lift into town. (Thank you for that, James, if you’re reading this). Another girl and I gratefully accepted, and after a bit of a walk from where we were dropped off, we managed to get into town.
The latter of which was partially flooded. Fleur (the young lady I hitchhiked with), was visiting a friend on campus, and had travelled there via train. She was trying to get home to Conway.
We agreed to stick together, hoping that there was a place we could charge our phones (we’d pinned our hopes rather foolishly on the nearest Costa) -hers wasn’t faring much better than mine. Though I’ve only been attending Lancaster University for the last few months, I have a greater knowledge of the town layout; so led our merry way through the streets.
That was where our cross-town, crazy journey began.
Trying to find bottled water was futile. None of the shops could, and had opened. People were standing solemnly in the streets, looking lost and so isolated from normality.
Also, there I was, essentially with a random tourist following me around town, looking for a train station whose services were more than likely not running; just trying to look more sincere and like less like a fish out of water.
Still, we persevered.
I gave up in my hunt for water: Sainsbury’s and the surrounding area had been flooded. We watched sceptically as a woman ran her car whilst simultaneously mopping it out. Smoke poured from the engine and curled around our feet, as we trundled past. The sound of Fleur’s suitcase hitting each individual cobble on the street mingled with the worried murmurs and sirens.
Together, after asking an elderly couple whom were still shocked by the flood damage for directions, we ended up by Lancaster priory. Finally, there was a network signal (it was a high enough hill to walk up, so I wouldn’t expect anything less- as I told my companion, through shamefully unfit deep breaths…)
Here, we encountered two problems:
- Train services were not running
- It was bitterly cold and Fleur had Raynaud’s disease (in which the cold slows down the circulation in extremities such as the fingers and toes, causing them to seize).
They were both easily solvable; with a feeble network connection we were both able to contact family members about what was happening; we could always hitchhike or walk back to the campus, and Fleur had medication she could take to combat the second problem.
She could only take the medication with a drink though.
That was how I found myself standing in a dimly lit pub at half twelve in the afternoon; holding a slightly muddy suitcase, and watching a yapping dog try and trip his owner up from under the table.
Of course, the pub was best our bet- water is free, for the most part (but now on reflection, there was no running water) but cooled ales and beer needed to be drunk. The locals were more than happy to help the owners of the establishment that stated this on its blackboard sign:
Fleur took her medication, so we shared a half pint of suspiciously syrupy coke (“There goes my diet” the stick-thin Fleur groaned to me), and our journey continued.
James’ ‘good deed’ that morning had left us in a bit of a predicament: we now had no way to get back to the university, if no one would take pity on us and offer a lift. By now, all of the bus services had stopped, and without a proper signal, we couldn’t ring a taxi firm.
For twenty minutes we walked down the lane in the direction of the university, only stopping intermittently to try and flag down another helpful citizen or a passing taxi. Traffic was piling up, but no one would stop and help us.
Then the road cleared… and I saw it.
It was as though the heavens had sent a golden light to surround it (in my eyes at least), and on the other side of the road there waited any empty taxi in the pileup of cars.
We crossed hastily, but the traffic began moving.
We started to run, but Fleur lagged behind, pulling her suitcase slowed her down.
I began to sprint; pursuing for a good minute.
Faster and faster and faster.
The cab pulled to a halt again-
I smacked on its window; panting, red faced, but triumphant.
We’d found ourselves a lift, and I am now convinced that I have never run so fast in my life. Adrenaline must have spurred me on, because how many people can claim that they flat-out sprinted down a hill for a full minute in wedge-heeled boots, and didn’t deck it on the pavement?
That’s my fluked achievement of the year done and dusted.
Our cabbie was a charming fellow only too happy to help, who cheerfully informed us that he was originally from Northern Ireland, had just taken another student from a local university to Preston, that his wife enjoyed watching horror movies and scaring herself, and that he had helped to build Conway tunnel oh so many years ago.
That was how I ended up wandering aimlessly around a desolate town, hunting down a cabbie, and splitting the fare with a stranger I had met only two hours before.
Approx. 14:20pm the same day
Water had been restored
Still no electricity and limited network services
Phone battery at 1%
Whence arriving back at campus, I waved goodbye to Fleur and wished her good luck on her travels. The chaplaincy centre had managed to obtain a generator, were serving hot tea, and had enough plug outlets and extension cables for students to charge their phones. With my phone happily sated on 55% of charge after about half an hour of awkward chatting with two second year students (one of which lived not too far from my hometown, and liked informing me of the mental breakdown her housemate was having at the moment), the higher ups in the university had made a decision.
Safety comes first; and no back up lights would be on in the accommodation, like there had been the night before. The fire alarms in each building also ran on main’s electricity, so it wouldn’t be safe to stay in our rooms. Most of the appliances have electric hobs (as gas cookers aren’t safe for students, apparently), so there would be no way of getting meals unless you were in catered accommodation-which most of the campus is not.
The word was spread that those living on campus had to pack and vacate their rooms by 16:00pm that day. If alternative means of accommodation, ie. Going home, or travelling to a nearby town and staying in a last minute hotel could be arranged, then we were told to just go.
Those who couldn’t relocate were told to pack an overnight bag and head to the great hall, where it would be safe to stay overnight before finding a way to return home.
The university would now be shut until the New Year, with exams and coursework deadlines postponed as well.
Approx. 19:40pm, Monday 7th December 2015
At home, relaxing and typing this blog post
Phone battery fully charged
Fed and watered (Yay!) and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere
Now, I bet those of you who have stuck to reading this post this far are wondering what the heck has all of the flooding, and how for so many students, normality went to hell in a handbasket in over a day, has to do with misinterpretation?
Be honest, how many of you when reading this thought I was being overdramatic, or petty? How many of you think that I’ve tried to make light of this situation? That the slightly pudgy (I’ll have you know its curves and muscle yesthankyouverymuch!) blogger was having an ickle-wickle bad day, and is venting in an over exaggerated manner just to get a few likes on her post?
You may or may not be wrong.
Honestly though? Blackouts are normal. Water being cut off is normal. Granted, I don’t like it when either happens- nobody does; it’s inconvenient and stressful. Though in that situation, all you can do is get on with it. It was terrifying for the most part not knowing what was going on.
Once communication and basic appliances are removed, it shoves you into a very strange place, and you feel so lost. It is isolated, and you cannot care for yourself as you normally would do. It does, however, prove to you how much the human race depends on technology and face to face communication/reassurance .
Who do we look to when something goes wrong? Someone who is more qualified or in a higher position than us.
What happens when that person is out of their depth? They rely on someone more qualified or in a higher position than they.
There will always be someone on the social hierarchy higher and lower than yourself; and those in either position, as well as yourself, look to those more experienced when in a crisis.
With basic communication within those tiers removed, pandemonium breaks loose. I was lucky to be informed, and innovative enough to go out and see what was happening in the world around me (with added detours); I was also lucky to live not too far away from my University- it was accessible by my parents, who could come and collect me when the eventual closure and evacuation of the campus ensued.
Spare a thought though for the international students, those who live further away from campus than I do, or those in the Lancaster/Morecambe/Cumbria areas. They are still living in uncertainty, they still have limited power and communication. They are still looking for answers from those more informed than themselves. They are not receiving those answers, because nobody knows anything for certain.
Feeling like you’ve misinterpreted my blog post yet?
I’ve certainly misinterpreted my task; it was supposed to be about literature. Ah, misinterpretation…
For all of the students still on campus, and those living in the surrounding areas; I hope you are well, and that the issues are solved soon. For my Seminar group, and our poor suffering tutor who’ll have no choice but to read this once I submit it as work- Ta-daah…? I hope you… like(?) this and found it vaugely entertaining?
For my readers, I should hopefully have another (creative) post out soon, if not, Merry Christmas to you all though I’m loath to celebrate this holiday.
As for me, I’m going to sleep for a week, and try and stop my shins, legs, hips and lower back from killing me more than they do now.
A tip for the New Year: Never run downhill in wedge-heeled boots. You’ll end up with more bodily aches than humanly possible, and could face the possibility of tarmac-rash on your face.