LIST five things you love about yourself, someone on Instagram exhorted me. Well, it was Monday morning and quite honestly there could be little to love about anyone, least of all me, on a day that had broken in such a tempestuous way.
As Storm Imogen (pretty name, but now with unfortunate connotations) screamed around the house and I kept an ear cocked for flying roof tiles (ours) and tumbling rubbish bins (our neighbours’), I briefly thought about what might go on that list. Could I come up with one reason to love myself? Not seriously, so let’s move on, let’s hit into this day and deal with whatever windy Imogen might inflict on us.
I knew the eucalyptus tree that someone unwisely planted probably no more than 20 years ago in a garden visible from our back stoop would be doing the maddest of dances, and I was right. It was bending and swooping in a most threatening way, probably wondering, as we were, what kind of climate it had found itself in which put its very life under threat. Its Antipodean forebears surely can’t have had the same sort of struggle for existence.
I’m not sure I can remember a period of such manic wildness as this run we’ve been experiencing. Since November 12, when Storm Abigail was Britain’s first ‘named’ severe weather system, we’ve endured eight more of these big ’uns, sometimes battering the country from top to toe, causing flooding and power cuts and affecting transport. By Easter we could be at the end of the alphabet, on Storm Zacharias, at this rate.
I can only give thanks for the passing of years which has meant I no longer have responsibility for any livestock and therefore no urgent need to brave the elements at all hours. Battling cruelly flapping tarpaulins in a corner of a field to access hay for the horses, while up to my knees in freezing mud, is now a distant memory, thank goodness.
Likewise, being taken by surprise by storm force winds when out at sea, gamely crewing for my father in a boat that neither of us knew how to sail. You just turn off the engine and set the sails, don’t you? Well, it’s a bit like that, only you have to study the weather and charts and notice what others are doing and not just place your faith in beginner’s luck.
A few outings later, with our lives and the boat still miraculously intact, we added two more to the crew and confidently set sail for France. We left the Devon coast in morning sunshine.
Any thoughts of croissants for breakfast disappeared hours later in a monumental storm, causing us to whip down the sails, batten down the hatches and ride it out. We took it in turns to be terribly seasick.
The wind abated around dawn and we were glad of the improving visibility as we were suddenly able to make out the shapes of looming rocks. They didn’t claim us, though they tried, but we realised that land must be near. It was, but it wasn’t France. It turned out to be St Peter Port in Guernsey.
Thanks to the weather we’d landed in the most unexpected of places. We spent two days there and had a wonderful time – and an uneventful and mercifully shorter sail home.
So perhaps there is one thing I can say I love about myself as Valentine’s Day approaches: making the most of serendipity. It almost always turns out for the best.