We left the rain behind us in Florida. Strange thing to say about flying to the UK. That must be a measure of how messed up the world is right now. Florida: flooding. UK: gorgeous melting sunshine.
The sky cried tropical tears onto the airport tarmac. Our new Dreamliner plane with incredibly large windows took off and landed us in the UK the next morning. We made our way to my mum’s house in West London via Hounslow Mini Cabs. Thank you to Mohammed for being cheaper than Uber. For a wonderful week we hung out with my mum, my aunt next door and my cousin and his family. The flowers were blooming and delicate. The cool, British spring sunshine. Meanwhile, Jack bought a car. He and Lulu took a train to the North of England and drove it back. We had to say good-bye then. It was time to make our way back along the M4 to Mid-Wales. Our house was waiting.
Ever since we downsized to buy a boat eight years ago this year, we’ve lived in a little bungalow behind my father-in-law’s house. Our bungalow is in Borth, a one street village bordering the Cardigan Bay. On the other side of the sea, a vast peat bog starts and doesn’t stop until it hits the Cambrian mountains. Borth sits in the middle like a piece of string. In the north, the Dyfi estuary meets Borth bog, marking the beginning of Snowdonia National Park. And when we were leaving for Quest in Mid-February, there were rats living behind the boiler. Sorry, I mean they were water voles. Cuter and silkier than rats. That was Jack’s conclusion anyhow pulling them out of the rat traps. ‘Look at their little whiskers,’ he crooned.
From that moment on, I was scared to leave our little bungalow for Quest. Ok, our bungalow is like a beach shack and doesn’t currently have a single hanging wardrobe, but I’d developed a mental picture and shared it. ‘What if we come back and find the rats/voles lounging on the sofas and wearing our clothes?’
Cue the systematic optimist. Jack said, ‘As soon as we turn off our boiler, they’ll go. They’ll go back to the peat bog.’ But after listening to these murine creatures for a month conduct their lives behind our walls, extractor fan and ceilings, I wasn’t so sure.
And to top it off, Natural Resources Wales, the government environmental agency, are currently conducting a local survey of water voles. Five years ago, they implemented a £34 million-pound coastal defence system for Borth. They pulled out all of Borth’s old wooden beach groynes and dropped a series of huge boulder reefs along the whole village. It was totally awesome for coastal flooding protection in our village. One small problem now… when it rains heavily, our drains quickly block up from the backed-up leat in the bog. At least a foot of water happily sits against our living room wall. We live with the sea one side and the bog on the other. Something is going to flood us from one end. This is land-lubbing with a watery difference.
My mum has possibly the best way of fixing this problem. ‘Why don’t you just move?’
I thought about it. We might not have winter winds fierce enough to stop us opening the car door. The sea fret raining on our heads like washing machine foam. Bottlenose dolphins slipping past in the shallows on a summer’s morning. We started communicating with our MP, Ben Lake about our problem. He’s been writing us emails late at night and into the weekends. The last one arrived on Easter Monday. Ben informed us Natural Resources Wales have agreed to drain the bog’s leat… but there was a catch. Nothing can be done until the water vole survey is carried out to completion. They are after all, a protected species.
I slapped my hand against my head driving back to our little house. ‘If they want to count voles, they just have to visit the bungalow.’ I’d forgotten about Welsh ironies.