I'm not long back from a trip out to Cockermouth - a town that has dominated the news here in the UK for the last ten days or so. Basically, Cockermouth was hit by a flood after more rain fell on Cumbria in 32 hours than ever recorded before. Ordinarily it's about a twenty minute drive for me, but on this occasion, due to road closures and unstable bridges and such it took me an hour and a half to get to the town, and perhaps another fifty minutes to get to the other side of town where I was attending the secondary school to do a talk with local aspiring writers and authors.
On the drive into town, it was a little surreal, looking at a once familiar landscape and thinking 'When did that mountain of rocks, flotsam and detritus replace all the fields?' There is one particular field that used to be a green pasture that now looks like a shale embankment or pebble beach. Unbelievable force must have scoured its way through the river valley and it was only on looking at this devastation that the true and awesome fury of nature really struck me. I'd watched bewildered at the news as it showed shops, homes and businesses (that I've regularly been in) neck deep in roaring water, but it is the aftermath that has struck me most. I parked in the east side of the town and took a walk down towards the town centre (not to gloat but find a public convenience - see, I tell all secrets here!) but found that access to the town was closed down by huge metal barriers. Even just outside the major strike zone, most of the shops and homes showed signs that they'd been flooded, and I came across two workmen bailing muddy water from a pub basement ON THE SIDE OF A HILL. It brought to light just how deep the water must have risen. Terrible.
But then, I was there to offer a little ray of light, and I hope I succeeded. The writing group (SLATE) I was there to talk to were a little lighter on attendees than usual, all down to the fact that transport to and from the venue is still a major issue. But the small group that were there were very kind and attentive and I had a good hours chat with them about the pros and cons of writing, the processes I take to produce a book, my inspiration and how I formulate ideas, my take on writer's block and getting past it etc.
All in all a good session, and I'm thoroughly pleased that I took the time to attend and pass on the benefit of my wisdom (OK, now that last bit was supposed to be a joke...just to lighten the gloomy sounding report). I hope if any of the attendees read this, then they got something out of the session. Happy and prosperous writing to you all.