The sunny river is dotted and decked with yellow, and blue, and orange, and white, and red, and pink. All the inhabitants of Hampton and Mousley dress themselves up in boating costume, and come and mooch around the lock with their dogs, and flirt, and smoke, and watch the boats, and altogether, what with the caps and jackets of the men, the pretty coloured dresses of the women, the excited dogs, the moving boats, the white sails, the pleasant landscape, and the sparkling water, it is one of the gayest sites I know of near this dull old London town.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men In A Boat (1889).
This is the sight near old London town:
The dull brown river is dotted and decked with cars, and road signs, and one that says ‘Ferry’ even though it’s in the middle of the wide stretch of water not at the edge, and bins for scooped-up-and-bagged dog-pooh attached to poles you can’t see because that’s how high the water’s risen, with not a dog-walker in sight and not likely since there’s no walking to be done; only wading (downcast eyes) or messing about in boats (half-smile if you’re in the boat, serious expression if you’re pushing or pulling the occupants to a place of safety).
All the inhabitants are dressed down in wellies and woolly jumpers and the occasional bib-and-tucker like the ones trawler men wear for gutting fish. No landscape: the streets awash with floodwater and abject politicians, and the military moving sandbags (in foreign news ‘military’ means coup and governments overthrown, but here in the waterlogged Home Counties the undertow is upbeat – expect to see Wills and Harry mucking in), and everyone’s gutted and the guts of Middle England are spilling into blocked drains and backing up.
Enough Prog Rock imagery – STOP!
Surrey’s inhabitants were high and dry and laughing when others were sinking into poverty 30 years ago. Half-of-me – the bitter half – doesn’t mind them getting wet. But there’s no question of them drowning. Worn down, yes, since Three Men In A Boat in Victorian high summer; nonetheless the mark of prosperous respectability remains far above flood-level.