On the night of October 15, 1987, I watched the latest, very amusing, episode of Blackadder the Third as it made its debut on the BBC and headed to bed chuckling. I was 14 at the time; funny the things which stick in your head.
A few hours later, I was woken by my worried mother telling me that roof tiles were flying, a tree in the garden had blown over and school was closed.
I was chuckling again – no school? The dream! Then the reality of what had happened overnight dawned.
And as I peered out of the window this week as Storm Ciaran rudely crashed its way across the county – praying that trees in my garden would remain firmly rooted – it reminded me of that most remarkable weather event which scarred Kent like nothing before it.
Walking with my father on the morning of October 16, 1987 – his hopes of commuting to London dashed by a complete cessation of rail services – we strolled streets which at the time looked like the trees had decided to rise up and attack us overnight – and paid a heavy price in the process.
Just up the road from our home in Ashford, one had fallen right into a house – taking out half its roof and then refusing to budge. It just lay there – a rude intruder.
Around the corner, a car was completely crushed by another, while a stroll around the local recreation ground was notable by that bizarre sense of calm after the storm and a slew of slain trees left in its wake.
We all called it a hurricane at the time. Silly us.
At some point over the next day or two we travelled down to Folkestone to see a Sealink ferry which had been blown out of the port and had found itself stuck on the beach. It was all rather dramatic. Another sight you never expected to see.
Three years later and often completely overlooked today, there was another massive storm which blew through the county in 1990.
Today called the Burns’ Night storm – it struck on January 25 1990 – it caused major problems primarily because it hit Kent hard during the day.
I was at college in Tonbridge at the time. I remember we were all summoned to be told the college was closing amid concerns for our safety. Those concerns seemed to stretch to those of us travelling by train being urged to leg it down to the station before services were cancelled (which would have then left us stranded on the wrong side of the county). The only blessing, of course, was that all the weak tress had been unceremoniously upended three years previous.
It was a reminder all those years ago that Mother Nature, for all her gentle wonder and awe can turn aggressive at times. We had no idea our disrespect of her over the coming years would turn those flashes of anger into regular ripostes.
It leaves us exposed, frightened. Wary that the the bricks and mortar we assume will always protect us and the trees which define our landscapes could actually shatter the one thing most precious to us all – a roof over our heads.
If we don’t start learning these lessons soon, the Great Storm of 1987 may seem like a picnic.