At the northern tip of the stunning Lake District National Park, just west of the designated Area of Outstanding National Beauty that is the Solway Coast and less than ten miles from the gateway to magnificent Scotland, stands the beautiful and ancient border City of Carlisle. It’s my birthplace, it’s my home. Its streets and buildings echo with memories of those who over the centuries have built this community. Though it sits in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, it’s a part where life has often been brutal and harsh, where the words blackmail and bereaved were born. It has withstood siege and curse, prosperity and poverty.
I love my hometown. It’s the setting for my first novel, Strong as Death, and my current Work in Progress is set in the countryside in and around the city. But the words I write today have nothing to do with fiction.
This weekend, the North of England and Southern Scotland saw their heaviest ever recorded rainfall. Communities all over the region are witnessing the devastation of their infrastructures, homes and livelihoods, as they are swallowed by floods for the second, and in some cases third time in a decade.
I wept when, aged eighteen, I moved away from Carlisle and, throughout the almost three decades I was away, I yearned to return. When I finally did, however, my homecoming was not a joyful one (a tale for another time). Nevertheless, I found arms strong enough to hold me when I was too weak to stand, hands to steady mine when they shook from fear and hearts quick to embrace my broken one. Here in my hometown, I rediscovered the strength and faith I needed to rebuild. To restore.
Long after the news reports, Facebook posts and Tweets have grown quiet on the subject of the #CumbriaFloods, I am in no doubt that strong arms, steady hands and full hearts will be giving time and resources with unstinting generosity in these ruined communities that overflow with the resilience needed for rebuilding and restoration.