Thursday, October 18, 2012

Flood warning

From time immemorial Bath has been a Mecca for the rich and famous.

Ever since Prince Bladud drove his swine into the warm squidgy mud and discovered a cure for leprosy, the well-heeled have beaten a path to the city in search of style, solitude and hot and cold running waters.

Rumours abound – and true stories too – of retiring film stars and pop idols, their wild days long behind them, living quietly and soberly within the honeyed limestone fastness of their palatial Georgian townhouses.

Oh look, there goes Van Morrison! Could that be Curt Smith from Tears for Fears, back on a quick visit to his old stomping ground? Didn’t Johnny Depp used to live round here? Isn’t that Ronnie Wood out of the Rolling Stones?

Well no, actually. It’s someone else who looks and dresses very much like him. But he still gets the occasional mention on Twitter.

And of course there was a time not so long ago when you could walk all the way from Newbridge to Bathford and never step off land owned by Nicolas Cage. Happy days.

But one wrinkled rock god whose presence in Bath has hitherto been unsuspected is 60s (and 70s, and 80s, and 90s, and noughties, and teenties) electro-acoustic-folk-rock-balladeer Bob Dylan.

“Crash on the levee, mama, water’s gonna overflow,” sang Dylan in his seminal 1967 ditty Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood). “Swamp’s gonna rise, no boat’s gonna row...”

He can only have been writing from experience, and about one thing: the mighty flood that appears in Weston Road between Royal Victoria Park and the golf course every time it rains a bit.

For nearly two weeks, the traffic was down to one lane. It was (and still is) dodgy for bikes and impassable on foot.

In those laid-back 60s, Dylan could afford to be philosophical about such matters.

“It's sugar for sugar, and it’s salt for salt,” he droned. “If you go down in the flood it's gonna be your fault.”

But we live in a faster age of high-speed communication and instant gratification, and people can’t wait. They need action, and they need it now. Surely, they cry, the council should do something about it?

They could have enforced parking restrictions round the flood, to give traffic more of a chance of getting past, rather than sitting pumping out fumes into Bath’s “green lung”.

They could have diverted traffic through or round the park for a few days, perhaps even letting it out through the west entry.

They could even, heaven forbid, have applied the municipal equivalent of a sink plunger or Vax, and quickly removed the whole oozing mess.

For days, weeks almost, they did nothing.

Eventually they erected a sign that said “Flood” close to each end of said flood, so there was no advance warning. Plus some cones, and a few sorry-looking sandbags.

And then they went away.

Until yesterday, that is, when they actually got round to setting up temporary traffic lights to smooth the traffic flow.

They worked out that the whole mess was caused by a blocked drain. (Who'd have guessed?)

They closed Weston Road last night and brought up the big guns. Bowsers, gulley cleaners, king-sized drain rods, the lot.  

Maybe they'll fix it, maybe not. Decades of experience have taught them that the waters will eventually recede of their own accord. Or at worst seep away into the park, leaving a six-inch layer of foetid mud over road and pavement.

They are as philosophical about the Weston Road flood as former Bath resident Bob Dylan was. And we, the commuters, will just have to tough it out.

Meanwhile, though, rumours are spreading that Noah once owned a house in Brock Street.

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