I started my walk (to deliver a Xmas present and do the shopping) at the forge on the High Street. On the left, as you look at it, the Tat is flooded, a car immersed up to the windows.
I pass the flautist from the previous evening’s carol service in the parish church.
Taking a right at the war monument, where the village tearooms are on the opposite corner, I see that Vicarage Road is closed to traffic due to water inundation further up. The drains are full – I can hear the torrents under the grate by the side of the road.
Passing the school on my right I spot an aspen, a tree known as trembling or populous tremuloides, poplar. Each three-pointed yellow leaf is on its own long stalk tipping from side to side and rustling, like half a castanet searching for its pair to clatter against.
I pass the entrance to the new estate and take a right into a leafy, rather soggy drive where it is quiet. Only the birds are piping and tweeting, trilling, as they do. There are great ridges of mud, puddles the width of the drive.
To my left are flutters of wood pigeon, heard but not seen. A sharp chirp comes from elsewhere. The dun brown earth in one garden is squared off with planks awaiting spring sewing, or maybe even harbouring overwintering goodies ready to spring in, well Spring.
The lodge where only 6 months ago stately artichoke flowers bloomed now has a Xmas wreath and lights which are only just visible in the bright morning.
Now that the trees are bare on the other side, I can see right through to the paddock to the grey tin trough. A wheelbarrow lies on its side and fresh straw has been strewn.
Layer upon layer of burgundy leaves, beech and oak, have been smoothed by rain and packed down to protect the almost dormant plants. When I step on them, they are so deep and cushiony I sink damply down so they cover my feet.
The man I gave the present to asked, ‘What’s it like in the village? I replied that all the cars have moved from the flooded Lees area and are outside mum’s house. He told me that Little Venice had to be evacuated and that their houses had been built to float. I had no idea. Later I discovered that he was not referring to Little Venice on London’s Thames, but to the collection of caravans close to Yalding Station which flood regularly.
As I returned, a red van stopped and the driver rolled down the window to ask, ‘you all right?’ I said I was enjoying the day and taking photos, and he replied that he wished the locals were too. Is it so obvious that I am not local then! Perhaps this is an unusual activity for a Sunday morning just before Xmas.
I wandered on under the nearly-Xmas sun, not a snowflake in sight. I could hear the South Eastern train tooting to warn its approach ahead of the level crossing.
On the way back I squelched my way down to the Kintons, past the new houses. Many are already inhabited, one with a shiny green ribbon crossed up/down, and side to side of the front door as if wrapped like a present with a bow in the middle, and another has the words ‘I’m sold’ emblazoned across it.
I walked along the top of the edging board to save my unsuitable boots from more mud and to see if I still could balance as I used to.
I felt surrounded by water, glimpsed through every break in vegetation.
All smelled of damp undergrowth and wood fires which I imagined burning in cosy sitting rooms where Xmas trees stood adorned with lights with a ring of presents at their feet.
I bid good morning to a gentleman who passed by wearing (suitable) wellies with a lively dog, but sadly I had no canine companion, no Trio.
I stopped by the tree though and remembered her rushing and scampering after squirrels in her heyday.
Here is the churchyard where happy photos were taken of mum and Hugh after the wedding, and the churchyard where he was buried only a few years later.
Back in the centre of the village, no one seems to be able to stop taking photos. Clusters of locals were swapping sodden stories.