Speakers’ Corner – Singing in the Rain

Have you heard of the band The Silencers and their song Scottish Rain?  Me neither; it came on Spotify on Sunday morning at breakfast during the hush, interspersed with the clink of knives and forks, that befalls the house when guests enjoy their fayre.  It’s not a bad tune; it’s on my playlist now.  We listened to a Spotify mix of Scottish bands, the usual of The Proclaimers, Travis, Belle and Sebastian, et al.  While familiar with most of the tunes, Scottish Rain was new.  And to say that it was appropriate would be an understatement.

            Last weekend was the wettest time since we moved to Furnace five years ago, and according to the local paper, the most enormous deluge in living memory.  A criticism of the podcast could be that we give a weekly weather report – that we’re obsessed with the climate – which might be fair.  However, this year has been bizarre.  It was the hottest June on record, the wettest July and August ever, followed by a heatwave in September and then storm Argyll or whatever they call it.  I plead guilty as charged; meteorological conditions seem uppermost in my mind.  Why wouldn’t it be – it started raining on Friday and never stopped – I’m not sure it has yet.  And who said there’s no such thing as Global warming?

            The consequence of the downpour was that the Powdermills grounds were flooded, a remarkable feat, as the land drains efficiently.  But not during this storm. The lawns, paths and hillsides were like running rivers, etching out water corridors, seeking the easiest escape.  Our culvert under the driveway had to be bolstered with stones to stop it from overflowing onto the main A83.  The pond next to the gunpowder mill ruins was nearly overflowing, and the discharge pipe resembled what I’d seen in a documentary on the Hoover Dam.  The relentless Scottish rain created an atmosphere of foreboding and fear. 

Reports came mid-morning on Saturday that the Rest and Be Thankful and the Old Military Road had been shut.  However, that’s standard for lousy weather.  Then came the news that a landslip at Carindow had closed the route to Dunoon.  Later, we heard that the A816 at Adfern was closed due to a massive landfall.  This meant that there was no access to Oban.  In effect, Inveraray and Furnace were cut off. 

The consequence was that motorists were trapped, unable to move, and the Police corralled them to Furnace Village Hall.  When we moved here five years ago, we had come from Edinburgh, where we hardly knew our neighbour, let alone contributed anything to the surrounding local community.  I did my bit with rugby coaching and administration but nothing in Cramond or Barnton, where we lived.  What a contrast to our life at Powdermills.  We feel part of our village and try to contribute when we can to the many initiatives being organised.  So, when the clarion call for help for the stranded travellers was posted on the Everything Furnace Facebook page, I rushed to the Village Hall to see how we could help.  I was shocked to witness the many people sitting in the hall; there must have been twenty people.  Yet, there was Robbie, a local volunteer, pouring cups of coffee and tea and ensuring everyone was topped up.  As usual, Cindy and David, the community shop owners, were at the centre of the efforts to organise help. Martin, our local policeman, was there, keeping people informed, and when I spoke to him, he was jump-starting a van in the teeming rain.

It was clear that the roads would not open until the following day, and a call went out for blankets and bedding for the hall.  And we did our bit, offering two rooms for an overnight stay.  It turns out this was the last day of a honeymoon for one couple, with their Lurcher and the other couple from Stirling deciding on a day out – clearly the wrong day!  We already had a couple from the US who had been marooned at Powdermills.  By chance, I had made Spaghetti Bolognaise, and we prepared them an evening meal with salad and a couple of bottles of red wine.  Sue’s generosity has been remarkable of late.  They all slept well and were safe.  They enjoyed their cooked breakfast the following morning and escaped via Dalmally to their various destinations.

It gave Sue and me a buzz, thinking we could help and show kindness under the circumstances.  It made us reflect that a sense of community is alive and kicking in this part of Scotland.  It’s comforting to think that people can come together in an age of the individual and impersonal social media.  It’s a sense of cooperation that underpins my belief in humanity.