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the walking train

Oxford is in flood. There are photos all over the BBC, videos and tragic tales, too. For me this means that I have not walked into work along the towpath since last year. I got up Abingdon Road on Monday morning, but the water was already overtopping the Cow Mead allotments, and it was clearly going to be no pass on foot by the end of the day. It's no pass at all now; timscience and I went out floodgawking last night and the streets were empty apart from the odd police checking for people in trouble with the water, and the odd fire engine drifting through on a pumping mission, their lights reflected in the flowing water of the streets. So I've been going along the Iffley Road, and with two of our main roads blocked, it has been busy, busy, busy with commuters stuck in hour long traffic jams partying in their cars, bus drivers idling while reading books, and the less well adjusted accelerating at the smallest stretch of clear road.

Of course a lot of people have also decided to walk (it is faster than the bus) and there has been something of a walking train building up, particularly on the long straight broad pavements of Iffley Road. The walking train is good. You merge into the main push and you speed up. People begin to lane a bit, the faster and the slower falling into step. The synchronicity of the people's movements creates, momentarily, the impression that they might all suddenly break out into dance or song; a slow movement in sympathy with the flood victims as they wait at junctions, a fast, complicated number at the roundabouts as they all peel off into different directions, and of course a good banging euphoric going home stomp for the long pavements, where we all speed up.

Of course, it's not all good. It's not worth mentioning all the being splattered with puddle by passing traffic, but surprisingly I also got splattered with beer by a passing white van on Magdalen Bridge. A closed tinny had been dropped in the gutter, possibly by one of our alcoholics in a moment of New Year resolution (or maybe they just feared the traffic) and as the wheel of the van went over the tin it popped like a balloon and I got beered. A first for me!

Yesterday, the Thames was still rising. The rain's slacked off, but it's still well wet out there. Happy New Year. It's a wet one!

Happy New Year 2014!