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Tide In Her Kitchen

Alastair Macleod

Tide In Her Kitchen

To the resilience of humans

BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
80331 Munich

Tide in Her Kitchen


At last she had a kitchen the way she wanted it. She had designed it herself pouring over brochures to select everything.
Previous houses had always had someone else’s ideas in place and she’d never had the money to change things. Mum’s legacy had changed that.
The surfaces were tactile; they invited her to clean, to put away. The brass controls of the hob led you to finger them. That room was so well lit she found herself reading or working at the kitchen table, something she’d never done before.
The new units, new hob new ceramic sink, cooker hood, a new dishwasher and washing machine had cost £5000. In addition she had bought new tableware, glasses and china and new tablecloths. And the floor, it was fashionable now to have hardwood flooring – she had it laid throughout, another £2000.
Of course she had felt pride in showing the kitchen to friends, but most of all its newness and niceness represented something for special her, a zone of very personal control that protected her from and contrasted with the very difficult world of work and relationships; it was because of this very factor that what happened was undermining on so many levels.
Her house was along one side of a pier that jutted out into the sea.
Many of the houses in the lower part of the town of Stromness were built this way. They were old houses. Merchants had each built their own pier during the 18th century herring boom.
With your own pier you could unload goods directly into your own house, which was really part warehouse, part dwelling. The lower rooms were for storage,
the upper for living, very like the houses of Venetian merchants, but never so grand.
No one carried on trade this way now. Cargo boats were massive and came in at the big pier. Today the merchants lived elsewhere, and the people who had bought the pier houses used upper and lower parts as dwellings.
There had been high tides before, some had come close: within six inches of the top of the pier anyway.
This time it was different. It was January, a Saturday. As she stepped out to go to the shops she noticed the water was high – a foot from the top. As she neared the town end of her pier, council workmen in yellow coats pushed past carrying sandbags. “Is this your house?” they yelled back. They began to stack the bags in front of the door.
“It’s surely not coming over the pier?”
“It might well do,” replied the foreman, “High tide is not for another half hour.” She quickly cancelled her trip to the shops. She made sure the front door was well sandbagged. “What else can I do?” she wailed to the men. “Pray” they said. Her neighbours’ doors were sandbagged likewise.
She returned to the kitchen – that kitchen, the new one. She stroked the worktop. “Surely it’ll not come this far”, she said to herself. She stood watching the lip of the pier. Every now and again she looked at the kitchen clock.
She felt angry, how could this happen, couldn’t we stop it?
The water crept higher and higher – strangely there was no wind. A strong wind
would have had it crashing over, sweeping along the stone pier.
She stood transfixed in horror as the water gently lapped the top. In disbelief she watched as it crept slowly over the dark rim of stone, then run thinly along in towards the houses, to the sandbags. She grabbed towels and raced to the front door, packing them furiously along the bottom.
Returning to the kitchen window she became aware of a strange sensation. To the eye it looked as if she were afloat – dark water stretched away, right from the front of her home across to the next pier also under water.
A sense of panic gripped her. She looked at the clock – ten minutes to go.”Damn damn damn “ she said under her breath. She heard a gurgling and turned. Water was streaming across that floor, the new timber floor, dirty water. She threw open a cupboard – an outlet pipe from the sink had not been sealed off at the wall. Water poured in as if under pressure. Frantically she tore off kitchen roll and tried to stuff it round the pipe with a fork.
The pressure was strong – at last it stopped. But water was coming in elsewhere. She flung open cupboard after cupboard – a ventilation brick, six inches wide, pouring water. Taking a baking tray she forced it against the brick bracing it with the broom.
She stood up exhausted. The clock said eight minutes to go. Around her
smelly sea water stood two inches deep but it was still rising. She searched the cupboards – where wood joined the wall, water was bubbling up. “Christ save us” she said “Its coming through the floor”
A liquid murmuring could be heard throughout the kitchen –the water was rising fast now - three inches, four inches. Galvanised into action she started to lift things out of cupboards onto the worktop, the beautiful worktop.

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