Sinking up to my shins in mud, I was forced to dig a moat around the horses’ shelter to try to drain away rainwater so they had a dry shavings bed to lie in at night.
With the wind and rain lashing us as trees bent double and groaned, the horses began racing around. After shovelling for hours to create a series of irrigation trenches, and with the horses settled snugly in their shelter eating hay in the warm, I was put in mind of Noah’s Ark.
I find it a logistical nightmare trying to get two ponies inside a shelter, so the story of how Noah had to load up two of every kind of creature remains my Old Testament favourite.
Back home, shivering and wet through, I checked my phone to discover a text from my local health centre in Surrey telling me that if I suspect I have coronavirus I must not go outside the house, or visit the GP or hospital, or even go to the pharmacy for medicines. Dial 111 instead.
Good luck trying to get livestock owners to stay in their houses while the rain is lashing down and their animals need tending. I am mainly socialising with horses and do not have the time to see people even if I wanted to, which is just as well.
For a week or so I did have a strange feeling of not being able to get enough air into my lungs. It was like altitude sickness. I have no idea whether it was anything serious as I am pretty tough and tend to power through coughs and colds, not quite succumbing.
I did feel most peculiar, though, and at one point was on the verge of visiting the casualty department because I thought I was having chest pains. In the end, after more than a week of feeling as if my lungs were not working properly, I began to breathe normally again, so I suppose I will never know.
Floods and a contagion. It all feels distinctly biblical. I fancy half the reason for the panic is the secular nature of our society. Faced with any kind of emergency that reminds us of our mortality, and our powerlessness in the face of hazards beyond our control, a lot of people do not react well.
They decide to be outraged, calling on the authorities to take more action and condemning the Prime Minister for not doing this or visiting that.
But is there more (or indeed anything) we can do when weather hits and germs spread themselves throughout a global population that has never been more mobile and interlinked? Our leaders should certainly take very seriously the need for dredging of rivers and flood defences, which I’m not convinced they always do.
When I visited the Somerset Levels during the winter flooding of 2013-14 it was heartbreaking to hear local farmers, who knew the land like the back of their hand, describe how they had been begging the authorities to dredge the rivers for years, only to see vital equipment being sold off and animal rights activists blocking dredging in the name of saving the vole.
Such a confused, wrong-headed approach seemed a dereliction of duty and responsibility to human life. Surely we would have learned lessons.
But regardless of whether it is anyone’s fault, it does feel as though the environment is reminding us that she, Mother Nature, is in control.
That said, as a horse owner, I really am praying for the rain to stop.
Being able to walk into a pub with the dogs is something I always appreciate. But I had dinner in one of Britain’s most dog-friendly pubs the other night and it was an experience I do not wish to repeat.
The place, which had won a string of awards for its Fido-friendly facilities, looked like one of those sporting scenes where dogs sit at a dinner table smoking cigars. There were dogs everywhere, some barking. Dirty, hairy dog beds were scattered all over the place, among bowls of half-spilt water or kitchen scraps.
We took refuge in the non-dog area, only to find the owner’s dog had the right to wander in and out of that. The food was very good, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were dining in a dog pound.
I think the French have this right: chic ladies in brasseries holding little lap dogs. But pubs full of yowling muddy hounds? When venues became child-friendly, cafés and pubs started to feel like crèches, with toddlers running around, toys strewn everywhere and an all-pervading smell of nappies. Grown-up human beings are fast being pushed out.
If Britain gets any more dog-friendly, we will have to start dropping the animals and kids off at the pub for the night and taking ourselves home for some peace and quiet.
Melissa Kite is a journalist and the Spectator’s Real Life columnist. Her most recent book is The Art of Not Having it All (Thomas Dunne Books)
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