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The Storm of ’87

October 28, 2013


The noise of the radio rudely awakened me from my sound sleep. I peered through half closed eyes at my radio alarm clock and read “1am”.

It took me a few minutes to realise that the radio had come on suddenly because the electricity had been down, and the radio automatically switched itself on when the electricity came back – everything had to be re-set.

“Strange, the walls are shaking. Oh well” and with that, I turned around and went back to sleep.

I was woken a few times like this during the night as the electricity went down and then came back on. At one point I looked out of the window to see the trees swaying madly in the wind. I had never seen them sway to far. The walls were still shaking, but very few things can keep my from my sleep and a hurricane was no exception!

I was a student at the time and lived in a one-room bedsit at the top of a 3 storey house, at the top of a hill in a beautiful market town in Sussex.

The following day, I was supposed to get the coach to London to meet my boyfriend (now husband).

That morning I listened to the radio and heard reports of fallen trees and blocked roads.

At the time we did not have mobile phones, so I had no way to contact Chris. He lived in a bedsit in London. We had arranged to meet at Victoria coach station at about midday and then travel on to see my Mum.

I made my way to the town bus station and waited expectantly.

No coach came.

Eventually they told us that the coach had decided not to stop at our town.

What to do?

The trains weren’t working.

The only thing I could do was to get a bus into Brighton and hope to get a coach from there.

I’m amazed the bus got through. Not only were there fallen trees everywhere, there was flooding all along the road.

When we got to Brighton bus station, my heart sank. There were queues all down the street leading to the coach station. How on earth was I going to get a coach to London in time?

Just as I got off the bus, I spotted a coach that said “Gatwick”.

“That’s half way to London,” I thought, and hopped on.

Luckily the driver let me pay on the coach, so I by-passed all the queues for the ticket office.

On the coach I spotted a couple who had been waiting at the first bus station with me – we all had the same idea.

On the  journey to Gatwick I stared out of the window in amazement at the massive trees which had been uprooted. We have photos of us taken some weeks following the storm, standing next to roots the size of houses.

At Gatwick, of course, the next step was to work out how to get to London. The trains still weren’t working.

A coach or taxi was the only option.

And yes, there was a massive queue for the taxis.

I was torn at that point – queue for a pay phone to let my family know where I was, or quickly get in the queue for the taxi.

Then I had a brainwave. I spotted the couple from the coach near the front of the taxi queue. I went over to them and said:

“We were on the same coach. Would you mind if I shared your taxi?”

It was a boy and a girl about my age. The boy said yes immediately, the girl gave me a black look, but I didn’t care.

So I jumped the queue for the taxi, just as I had jumped the queues at the coach station.

The girl scowled at me for the whole journey. I don’t know if it was because I had just had the most horrendous hair cut of my whole life, or whether she just didn’t like me.

The taxi ride was horrible. I was sitting with my back to the driver and felt car sick the whole way. We had to take detours to avoid blocked roads, so it took a long time.

When I eventually got to Victoria Coach station, I was three hours late, and Chris was just about to call the police to report a missing person.

What sticks in my mind after all the queue jumping and quick thinking, was my determination that I would reach my destination no matter what it took, and my unwavering trust that Chris would be there to meet me, no matter how late I was.

(image by Maggie Smith courtesy of

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One Comment
  1. I love that Sara, that he waited, and you got there. I suppose the mobile phones have taken that away from us these days!

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