12 November 2010


In an unwelcome contrast to sunny Cochabamba, the Northumbrian heavens have been open almost all the time since my return, and without a moment’s pause in the last four days. 
The unsightly stables on the side of the house have now been dismantled, allowing an unobstructed view of the river. This in most circumstances would be a highly aesthetic experience, but in the present weather conditions it is a stark reminder of nature’s ferocity. Over twice its usual height and width, the river flows with vertiginous speed towards its confluence only a few hundred yards away. Its usual murmur is a prominent part of our quotidian soundscape, but what we now hear is something different: a roar of intimidating fierceness.   
If I hadn’t come to trust the wisdom of the ancient builders of Northumberland, and if this trust were not often reinforced by the savvy locals - “they knew how to build houses then, and where” - I would be living in fear of being swept away in my sleep, family and dog and cats included. But I have come to trust this place. The weather has changed around here thousands of times before, whipping this land without mercy, but the house has stood its ground. 
I live within yards of a river, surrounded by tall trees, flanked by a hill at touching distance, and with no neighbours to shield me from the forces of heaven. When nature chooses to unleash its power, these are its tools to wield it. They are the executors of its might. Sometimes their actions make me feel nature’s destructive breath on my face, and hear the swoosh of its claws just missing my head. But history suggests that I, my family and our surroundings will survive this test too.