Lynn had suffered many floods in its long history, but the last big one had been many years before. I only remembered it vaguely, being just a young child at the time, but I do recall how the men from the farm were all rushing to fill sandbags to protect the houses along the coast. Since that time more flood defenses had been installed, and even though there were warnings issued from time to time, nothing serious ever happen. So when we got a flood warning just a month after we’d opened the café, I really didn’t think anything of it. I locked up as normal that night and went across the road for a drink or two at the Anchor.
It wasn’t long before we heard the sirens going, but again, we’d all got to the stage where we just took them as part of life and carried on. It wasn’t until we started to see police cars going past that anyone took any real notice. By that time the waters had risen over the quay, and were lapping at the road leading to the marketplace. Before long the water looked like it might reach the High Street, and I rushed back to the café to put the flood gates in place. Back at the Anchor, they had also put the flood defenses in place. Soon the water was lapping up against the curbstones, before streaming inexorably along the street and into any property not boarded up. A few of us began to go along the High Street and surrounding roads seeing what we could do to help until we were all wading knee-deep in cold, muddy water. I realized that soon we would be the ones in need of rescue, and encouraged all the helpers to join me in making our way to higher ground, but where to go? I thought that the rooms over the Anchor would be a good place to be, and some of us started to struggle against the tide to get back there. When we arrived, we found that the water had gone over the wooden planks that had been up to defend the pub, and the whole bar area was under a foot of water. The landlord called for us to come up the side entrance, and we made our way into the kitchen area. Being half a flight of stairs above the bar, this was above the flood level, at least for the moment. One of the bar staff had the foresight to bring a couple of crate of beer up to the kitchen before the basement flooded out, and we all took a drink. All of us wondered how long it would be before we had to move upwards again.
We needn’t have worried, however, because the tide had already peaked, and soon we could see the waters ebbing away.It was now almost dawn, and by the gray early morning light, we could see that the market and High Street were covered by a layer of wet, sticky mud. I ventured over to the café and found that the little defense I’d tried to put in place had not held back the water, and all our new furniture and fittings were ruined. John was looking at his shop, which had not survived much better, and we shared just a few words before I went off to check on my apartment. As this was on the second floor I knew it would be OK, but what about the surrounding area? Here, the gates to keep the water out had worked well, and even my car was safe. I dropped my wet and stinking clothes in the hall and rested for a few minutes.
As I got dressed again, I looked out of my window at the calm river with the sun sparkling on its glassy surface. I wondered at the beauty of it, and how destructive force it had been just a few hours before.
I didn’t have time to stop, however, and went back to town to assess what should be done next. At the café, all was a mess, and John said he was still trying to get his insurance company to let him know what was covered. My cook turned up for work, so between us we got some of the kitchen open enough to at least brew tea, and I suggested we make some bacon sandwiches. As soon as the smell of bacon hit the street, people started coming in, and there was a steady stream of visitors. When we ran out of bread, I walked along to the bakery, only to find them like us still cleaning up and with nothing to sell. Back at the café, we carried on making tea for the people of the high street late into the evening while still trying to clean up as best we could.