So, just when I thought it was safe . . . the rivers near here started to rise again. Not that they have subsided much since the last bout of flooding but the last couple of days have seen even more rain falling on to the already saturated land. Water cascaded down the hillsides and across roads into swollen rivers for hour upon hour.
The flood defences failed in the North Devon village where my dear friend M (of Random Distractions) lives. I watched with growing alarm as the televison coverage showed just how deep the flood waters were and checked to make sure that her home had not been affected. It had not but, as the roads in and out of that part of North Devon are closed, no-one knows if her family will be able to make their planned journey to join M and her husband for Christmas.
Then the flood defences on the River Barle failed at Dulverton, just a few miles from here. Kenny, the landlord of The Bridge, where we have had many memorable and happy meals, reported on Twitter that the pub itself was flooded and that they had watched their garden furniture and plant pots sail away. The Bridge is a wonderful place, everything a family pub should be, and this would be one of the busiest times of their year. But, as of last night, Kenny reported that they were planning a massive clean-up today and hope to reopen on Christmas Eve. If they do, such is the level of local support that they enjoy, the Bridge will be packed.
All the village roads are flooded too; the riverbanks that the dogs enjoy racing along on their morning walks have disappeared and the riverside garden that belongs to another dear friend, the Only Blonde in the Village, has disappeared for the second time in weeks. Rain has started to come down one of the chimneys of my house and into the woodburner . . .
I watched all this unfolding as I decorated the house and the tree yesterday evening, late with everything as usual, wondering if my family and friends would make it here from the Chilterns and North Devon for the Christmas gathering we have planned. Supper went into the Aga about three hours later than usual and not long afterwards I realised that the Aga had died. The likelihood of persuading the engineer to come out between now and tomorrow so that the midwinter feast can be prepared on Tuesday is, er, remote. Somehow I can't see the back-up Baby Belling being up to the task of mass catering.
It is not, however, the end of the world; I have rapidly put together a plan A (no plan B as yet but I'm working on it).
Meanwhile, I wish you all much peace, happiness and joy this Christmas, however and wherever you are celebrating this festival of deep midwinter. I leave you with one of my favourite pieces of Christmas music because when all else fails, music unfailingly lifts the spirits, even in the face of dead Agas.