Monday, October 15, 2007

Blow me

When I go to bed tonight I hope I sleep well. As I did 20 years ago to the day ... completely missing the worst hurricane to hit these shores since 1703. Yup, I slept through the whole of The Great Storm. I must have been unusually tired.

All I remember was getting up on the morning of 16th October 1987 and heading for work and finding that some inconsiderate fellow had left a tree across the road. So, taking a detour around the arse end of Kenton (I lived in Ealing, London at the time), I found myself in Kingsbury and staring at yet another tree masquerading as a speed hump. And so it went on. Detour. Tree. Detour. Tree. Even my addled early-morning brain started to realise that something was up. When I finally did get to work, I was one of only three people who'd made it in out of a staff of nearly 50. Many commuted from a lot further away than me. Work was abandoned and I spent much of the day helping people to clear their gardens and repair broken fences.

Of course, the one thing we all remember was TV weatherman Michael Fish and his 'there will be no hurricane' broadcast. Sadly, history has chosen to gloss over the truth with a convenient and much funnier version of events. Mr Fish had actually warned us earlier in the day to 'batten down the hatches' as there would be strong winds. His downfall came when answering a query on live TV from a lady viewer. You may recall his infamous words ... 'Apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, don't worry if you're watching, there isn't.' (You can watch it here on YouTube)

However, he was talking about a completely different hurricane. The query had been about a hurricane warning in Florida, USA. But such is the cruel nature of coincidence that Fish answered that question on air just a few hours before the first trees started toppling. And when the winds finally died down, 18 people were dead and £1.5billion worth of damage had been caused in the South East. The high winds brought down 15 million trees - the strongest gust was measured at 122mph at Gorleston, Norfolk - and poor old Michael Fish's reputation was permanently and unfairly tarnished.

I dug out my old diary from 1987 to see how I'd chosen to record the events of the day.

I think I summed it up fairly succinctly.

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