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14 February 2016

Marlene Arthurís account of the Perth floods may well be only one of many but it seems to catch the mood exactly.

I don't really know where to start ... but I was getting truly frightened when I realised that we were in the middle of a flash flood.

It had rained constantly from the moment we all arrived at the venue in Perth Racecourse on Friday lunchtime. We had thunder and lightning Friday and Saturday but we all just got on with the Champs as planned. As Molly Atkinson once said, we knew it would be "wet, very wet or very wet indeed". It turned out to be the latter.

Saturday was mental. Everyone and everything was totally saturated, the paperwork was ruined ... it was like trying to write on a wet facecloth. The vetting area flooded by Fri afternoon, so we moved it to higher ground for the Saturday ... it too was flooded by Sat mid afternoon. We were all exhausted by Sat evening and nearly everyone decided on an early night. THANK GOODNESS I was in the trailer and not in a tent. By the time we emerged from our evening meal in the marquee it was obvious we were in trouble.

However, no one at that point was going to bail out from the Champs ... our intrepid (mental) endurance riders and helpers decided to weather the storm ... It was still battering down when we said our good nights; some were in tents, some in trailers others in lorries and the non-hardy individuals were in the tiny jockey rooms or the luxury of B&B's. I was tucked up cosy and dry knowing I'd never sleep for the noise of the battering rain on the trailer roof - and I wondered what on earth was going on outside at about the back of 10.30.  What a commotion - in the semidarkness and in the pishin rain, I could see folks splashing about in ever deepening water hitching up 4x4's, horses were being moved, big puddles had become huge and ever widening pools, and flashlights blinking everywhere. A mass exodus was taking place and the water level was rising fast. When I opened my wee jockey door, I could see that my trailer was already in its own pool and so was the jeep (which I'd foolishly unhitched on the Friday) but some grass was still visible between the two.

At first, I decided to sit it out and leave in the morning as we'd been told day two had wisely been cancelled and that people were being advised to either move to higher ground or to go home. I didn't think we'd get enough rain to totally flood us out, so I climbed back into my sleeping bag to try to drown out the noise.

Thank goodness I'm such a nosey b****r, coz by the back of 11 I'd decided to have another look to see how folks were getting on ... thank the gods I did, coz the burn had burst its banks and I was now sitting in water which I discovered was more than halfway up my wellies !! ARGHH !! The trailers wheel clamp and chocks were already under water and well out of sight. You could feel the pressure of the water around your legs and there was a current like you experience when you are in the sea or in a fast flowing burn!  I don't mind admitting it but I was really getting scared by this time. The campers tents were already awash and the contents were floating away ... I saw many items bobbing about in the darkness.  Everyone was brilliant helping each other coz hitching up in flowing water in the dark in a steamed up vehicle when you are in a state of panic ain't nice.

By this time the corralling area for the poor horses was more than thigh deep, After hitching up, I'd gone to help move horses and one woman had stripped off her trousers, socks and boots and was wading about in water almost touching her knickers to rescue the poor shivering beasts.  Most of them calmly took it in their stride bless them. It was all like a bad dream ...

By the time we'd moved to higher ground and everyone was safe I decided to climb back in to my sleeping bag in an attempt to sleep. I listened to big lorries and vehicles coming and going just feet away from my wee safe haven and thought, stuff it, if this is gonna continue for the next couple of hours I might as well head home coz the noise was simply too much.  So, at midnight, I set off home ... very,

very tired and in poor visibility.

The jeep was badly steamed up but I didn't want to put on the A/C coz it wasn't very happy being driven thru all that deep water with the 4x4 activated. I realised it was going be around 2am by the time I made it home, so that was my next dilemma! IF I arrive at Henry's farm at that time of night, someone will end up coming out with a flashlight in case it's a prowler, plus the thought of parking and un-hitching in the dark and pishin rain was gonna be unbearable and almost impossible. But ..IF I take the trailer home, there's no where to park in the street coz of all the road works and yellow workies barriers, AND the house door will be locked with the key in the door and I'll not get in unless I call Duncan to open it up, AND that would mean leaving all my belongings in the street. None of these options was ideal as I didn't want to disturb anyone and I didn't want to have to unpack/unload the trailer at 2 in the morning! All these thoughts were going through my head during the horrific journey home through flooded roads and misty sections. It seemed to take forever; I badly needed a well earned sleep. Anyway ... you'll all love this bit and you'll now be totally convinced that I'm quite mad ... On arriving in home, I pulled into our street and turned immediately right in to the new Old Folks Home/Retirement village, parked in the huge, empty car park and returned to my sleeping bag knowing my belongings wouldn't be unattended during the night and that I wouldn't disturb ANYONE.

I slept like a top, crawled out of my sleeping bag about 0700hrs, brewed myself a cup of tea and then trundled the jeep and trailer the final couple of hundred yards up the road to the house just in time for a very puzzled Duncan to open the bedroom blinds and wonder why I was standing in the garden.

Quite and adventure and hopefully NEVER to be repeated.