Our allotment is six feet from a river that Wikipedia describes as ‘the most volatile and fast-rising river in the World’.  Wikipedia can be unreliable, and spelling ‘world’ with a capital ‘W’ doesn’t inspire confidence, but it’s true the Wharfe can rise and fall in minutes, sweeping people off stepping stones and (perhaps) flooding allotments.

Stepping stones near our Yorkshire allotment

The nearby stepping stones

People who live by rivers know which areas flood, and in what order. Mr Mandy Sutter, back from walking dog MS, says things like, ‘the park’s waterlogged, but not the football pitch.’ Or, ‘the path beyond the old bridge is underwater now!’ Dad (87) likes to talk about how he might get ‘cut off ‘.

But when it comes to the allotments, no local can say whether they flood or not, just as none can remember what the land was used for before it became allotments last June. Some cock their eyebrows and say one thing, some shake their heads and say another. All, when pressed further by a deranged-looking chap in a flat cap (Dad) become more vague rather than less.

So we allotmenteers don’t know what to think. You’ve only to see our five sheds, some on stilts, some flat to the ground, to realise that.

But then it rains and rains. And rains some more.

The river is a brown torrent. Tree trunks and bloated sheep hurtle past. People stop on the bridges in our little town to point and stare, to take photos.

When the rain stops, I go to the allotment.

It’s a strange sight, like walking through your own house after a burglary. The mind doesn’t quite take it in. It asks, ‘who has moved the DVD recorder? I’m sure we normally keep it under the TV. Hey, where IS the TV? And why is there broken glass all over the floor?’

Our new allotment is flooded

The currant bushes after the flood

As I approach our plot,  I wonder why bits of wood are strewn on the path and the bench is upside-down. Why is a tub of creosote lying in the middle of the mud-covered chard? Where have the potato tops gone? And why are dead leaves heaped in drifts against any fencing that hasn’t been flattened?

Judging by the mud, the water has covered eight plots, then seeped into the ground. I wish I’d been there to see it.

I cross to the shed. Its steps (made by Dad) are covered in mud, even the top one. I phone him straight away. He is delighted.  ‘Well I never! I’d better bring my new Wellies.’

Later he tells me he’s none too sure about the boots. ‘They make a heck of a lot of noise.’ It’s true that with each step, there’s a slap as boot-top meets calf.  ‘I keep turning round,’ he says. ‘I keep thinking some bugger’s walking right behind me.’

But for now, we begin clearing. My job is to rake and bag dead leaves. Soon I’m covered in mud. Dad’s job is to wonder at the fact that the water reached as high as it did, and admire the shed. I glimpse the passion that can unite man and hut. ‘Dry as a bone inside: what a beauty. Just as well I raised it a few inches though, eh?’

Our neighbour arrives, a likeable bloke with a young son in tow. He has built his shed flat to the ground and there is condensation on his window.

‘Did it get in?’ I ask.

‘Afraid so,’ he says. He has to remove the window completely to let air circulate. Two of the other sheds have also received a soaking, judging by their windows.

Novice allotment holders' shed gets flooded

Judging by their windows

‘Hah,’ says Dad, with satisfaction.  ‘All those folk who swore blind it never flooded; who’ve lived here twenty-five years! Shows you how much they know.’

But it’s as we walk back to the cars that he delivers his master stroke. ‘I reckon our shed could do with  raising a few more inches.’

Next day, he’s back on site armed with four bricks and the pristine car jack from his new toy Peugeot. While I hover incompetently, he jacks the shed’s legs up one by one and inserts the bricks underneath.

Dad shores the shed up

Legs on bricks

Then he unscrews and remounts the steps. It takes him less than an hour.

‘That’s brilliant, Dad!’ I say.

‘I don’t know about brilliant,’ he says. ‘It’ll do for now, though.’

I’d always taken his preoccupation with the weather as a sign of old age. Funny then, that when bad weather  comes, he’s the one who best knows how to deal with it.