………Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play!
Actually that was 40 years ago. But 20 years ago today, something happened that changed the face of the South East of England for ever!
At 7.30 in the evening, the respected and revered BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish transmitted his predictions on national television, for the night ahead.
“I’ve had a phone call from someone saying that they’ve heard a hurricane is on the way“ he said. “Don't worry - there isn't".
Six hours later the South East was turned up side down. Quite literally. Winds in excess of 130 miles per hour rushed across the countryside, and through the towns and villages, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction the like of which had not been seen since the war.
I slept through it. As I lay in bed in the morning it occurred to me that everything was silent. There was no traffic passing my house on its way into Eastbourne. When I looked out of the window my breath was taken away. My initial thought was that a bomb had dropped. The tall trees that surrounded my garden were lying on the ground like so many pic-a-sticks. The road was totally blocked by giant oaks.
My shed was gone. My neighbour’s garage had gone!
We had no telephone - it was dead - and the electricity had gone off. The radio was silent and the TV a blur off hissing fuzz.
It soon became apparent what had happened. As I looked around I saw parts of roofs missing. I clambered over the newly created barriers and made my way up my road to find cars crushed under tree trunks, and the whole side of one house missing.
I climbed my way into the town. I had a business to think about. I had left my enormous showroom blinds unfurled when I left the night before. Would they still be there, or were they now floating in the sea and on their way to France?
Gradually things began to come back to life. Stunned people emerged from their damaged homes and stood outside scratching their heads and wearing an expression of total bewilderment. I made it to work and remarkably my blinds were still intact. But on the way, one road, complete with its trees and hedges, had completely slid down hill and disappeared from sight.
In fact hardly a tree survived. Neither did garden furniture, gazebos or fences. Complete roofs were missing from blocks of apartments. French windows had blown in, allowing the furniture inside to be reduced to piles of match wood.
The full scale of the devastation became apparent when the radio crackled back into life. The whole of Sussex, most of Kent and a large part of Surrey had suffered the great storm. Ashdown forest was no longer a forest. The famous Kew Gardens where almost totally destroyed. The holiday caravan parks where reduced to a jumble of twisted metal, and boats all along the coast were washed up onto the roads, or had disappeared completely. All major roads and railway lines were blocked, and were to remain so for several days. And it was to be many days before the power was resumed to all of the households and businesses.
That night, 18 people lost their lives. 15 million trees went down and the cost of the damage exceeded one billion pounds.
Tonight, 40 years to the day, all is quiet. There’s not a breath of wind. But come to think of it, that’s how it was when I went to bed on October 14th 1987!