Personally I was shopping in Aberdeen with the Gamekeeper (a RARE occurrence to get him out of his natural habitat) and we were slightly nonplussed to be redirected four times due to road and bridge closures on what is a normally a 45 minute journey home. It turned into a four and a half hour marathon as all routes south across the bridges closed in front and behind us and the police informed us at Potarch that there was no way to get across the Dee.
At one point we were considering chapping on the door of the only "at home" north of the river quine Jan - but she was having her own problems rerouting a field flood through a neighbours garage....but that's another story. As we headed due west - as it turns out- towards the worst hit area of Ballater we managed to skip across the bridge at Aboyne - before it was closed again behind us. We were barely inconvenienced and incredulous to the extent of damage caused by the natural elements. It transpires that much of the damage to the infrastructure of bridges was caused by the passage of some 37 caravans and 30 fishing huts plus numerous fully mature Scot' pines that were swept down in the swollen current.
Following the storm the River Dee office got in touch with me suggesting that I think about a way to mark it's passage. I was initially horrified at what I perceived to be potentially rubber necking someone else's devastation. It was documented daily on facebook and came to be what my colleague Ross MacDonald at the River office referred to as Flood porn. Very quickly images of the storm damage slipped down the facebook feeds as communities rallied to help each other out of the mess.
Back in September 2015 I had been invited to speak to the Ballater Probus group about my book "Portrait of the River Dee" - I had declined due to the business of the River of Fish project - but they persisted and booked me in for their January meeting. I could hardly believe that they would want to hear stories from the River but there was a turn out of more than 50 and hearing their own tales from the expanded riverbank was testament to their forbearance of an incredible event. I decided to accept the challenge of recording the storm, but felt that it was much more than a book. In the meantime I have spoken with lots of other folk who have the most amazing stories and anecdotes, fellow artists who are keen to make a response to the flood -including my fellow quines.
Last week Hilary, Helen and I met to discuss NEOS 2016 and the ideas began to flow. We are not planning a community wide response - more of a personal one to be unveiled in September. In the meantime I am meeting up with individuals who might like to contribute to a larger response so if you have ideas and would like to share them please drop me an email.
And Thanks to Simon Blackett from Invercauld who sent us the header picture for this post of his shoal of fish he purchased at the River of Fish Auction that miraculously survived being totally submerged by the flood!