“My lot is cast in a country where we have neither woods nor commons, nor pleasant prospects; all flat and insipid; in the summer adorned only with blue willows, and in the winter covered with a flood. Such it is at present: our bridges shaken almost in pieces; our poor willows torn away by the roots, and our haycocks almost afloat. Yet even here we are happy.”
William Cowper, 1767 (Huntingdonshire – next to Cambridgeshire)
“The first day, this year, begun without candles. Birds singing a little.”
John Ruskin, 1884 (Coniston, Lancashire)
The Cam is a placid, well-mannered river which rarely floods much. It can only be provoked by long and persistent rainfall, such as we have had, in fact, this month, and even then it chooses to seep and infiltrate rather than gush or pour.
If you are riding a bicycle along the tow path you might get wetter than you like (although by now no one could possibly tell the difference, so super-saturated are we), and if you have bought one of the uninsurable houses on Riverside you are probably standing by with the sandbags and galoshes; but in general, for such a flat county, it could all be a lot worse.
January is on record in some parts of the country as the wettest yet, and while in Cambridge it has not been as bad as all that, it has nevertheless been a leaden month. From time to time I clean my shoes and each time wonder why; by the time I have gone fifty yards they are spattered and mushy again.
But there is always a little hope. While it is still dark in the mornings it is fractionally less dark; and my cycle home in the afternoon is no longer a lurid street-and-headlight affair; and when I trundle my bicycle down to the shed at the bottom of my muddy garden, there is a thrush who seems pleased enough with life, still singing away.