Today’s news and pictures of the hurricane in the Philippines reminded me of a storm that tore through the Welsh valley where I was living with my parents. I must have been about seven or eight at the time. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon and the wind was screaming as the slate tiles on the roof of the Victorian house started skimming through the air after the ornate terracotta crest tiles were loosened and came crashing down into the garden. I remember standing at the window looking out on to the back garden and laughing to see the corrugated roof of one of our garden sheds hanging like some monstrous metal sheet, and swinging by its wooden frame from the clothes line of the house next door.
My mother, father, and I were surprised by a knock at the door, and found the elderly spinster daughter of our next-door-neighbour standing with a shawl over her head and jabbing wildly with slate tiles crashing all round. My father made to pull the poor woman in to the safety of the hallway, but she resisted and I heard her shouting above the noise of the wind, ‘I can’t leave my mother alone, but you must come; the roof of one of your sheds is hanging off my mother’s clothes’ line.’
I remember my father replying and having to shout above the noise of the gale, ‘I’m not going out in this wind, and you should have more sense than to venture out with these slates flying. Do you realise if one fell on you it could cut your head in two? Now, if you won’t come in out of the storm, go home at once.’
Looking at the news pictures of the storm-swept landscape in the Philippines, I remember the howling wind of that Sunday afternoon and the crashing tiles every time I experience the ferocity of the gales that sweep in through the Towy estuary and up this hillside high above Ferryside and Kidwelly.
I remember too, when I was thinking of buying my present home, of the words of the man from Llanelli whom I’d commissioned to carry out a survey saying, ‘Well, it’s a lovely property that needs a bit of TLC, and you have some great views, but every time you hear there are hurricanes across the water in America, remember you’ll feel the tail-end of them up here on your hill’. He was right of course.