We rain supreme for being so daft


PEOPLE often try to define what it is to be British and I become more convinced that being daft is a vital part of our national character.

It was pretty well summed up in a debate in southern newspapers which has been raging over the last week over the prospect of a drought.

The usual unlikely schemes are proposed about national water grids and so on – a massively expensive civil engineering project which is highly unlikely in the midst of a major recession.

Many people are surprised by the odd, but provable fact, that we live in one of the driest areas of the country.

Good friends at the University of Durham dug out the figures for me some years ago when we were building the case for test match cricket in Durham.

As you’ll remember from school days, much of our weather comes from the Atlantic direction and drops its collected water over the Lake District (and Old Trafford, in Manchester) before reaching us on the east of the Pennines.

Despite that, we are lucky with water supplies in Hartlepool with our major underground reserves rising through healthy limestone which keeps our bones and teeth in pretty good nick.

Of course, there are more major supplies up the road at Kielder, and that massive man-made reservoir proved some relief during another major drought in the mid-nineties.

It didn’t go south in pipes, though, but in hundreds of lorries and I can vouch for that personally.

I’d been speaking at an event in a hotel just off the M62, near Huddersfield, and was kept awake all night with water-filled trucks coming off the slip road.

Soon after that, I was on a trip to Dubai and the water lorry story was in the papers there.

I was reading about it while looking out of the office at the fountains playing and parks being watered.

An Arab friend looked at the story and wondered why an island like Great Britain didn’t simply set up desalination plants to produce fresh water from the sea, as they did in a country largely filled with desert.

It does get dafter here though.

There are currently plans to build thousands of new homes in the south east of England, an area expected to be a water shortage hot-spot for years to come.

Our simple Hartlepool minds would direct new homes, and transferable jobs, to a region which has no water supply problems – like here.

I have to end with an example of my own daftness with water as a theme.

When I was a kid, my dad had an allotment on the site of what is now the Old Boys’ Rugby Club just off Easington Road.

In the summer, one regular task for me and my brothers was to make the trek to the standpipe tap and bring buckets of water for the flowers and vegetables – it was simply too far for a hosepipe to reach.

To save carrying two heavy buckets, I had the brilliant idea of putting a slightly smaller bucket inside my bigger one so that I’d have two bucketsful ready to empty back at the allotment.

I soon found that it doesn’t work like that!

I might have been young and daft – a bit like living on an island and being short of water.