Frivolous Monsters

Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, and the Case of the Missing Ear

It was like an episode of Thunderbirds in Bury when the most perilous disaster the town had ever seen was averted – a hundred lives saved – after the fire brigade sprang into action to face their greatest challenge during the brunt of an unnamed storm outside the local Wetherspoon’s pub which had taken up residence in the old cinema building.

Letter E 500

The newspaper headline in the Bury Times, which reported on all the action, sensationalised the events with the headline: “DANGLING LETTER REMOVED”, referring to the giant teetering letter E in the Art Picture House sign – literally almost twelve inches tall – which threatened to tumble, at any moment, onto who knows how many pedestrians walking along the main road.1

A quote from the story read: “The letter was safely removed before it could fall to the pavement below”, whilst it seemed that the Wetherspoon’s staff’s greatest fear was that the old sign’s letters: “might have been metal”, and not the bit of Grade II Listed bit of wood as it turned out.

Following on from this the lead up to Christmas was seemingly a month of heavy rain, leaving everywhere sodden, and during the brunt of Storm Clodagh (pronounced Clo-da, we were told) the local weather forecasters, with their satellite forecasts, finally promised me a break in proceedings; going stir crazy I was counting down the minutes to get out the house and, to give them their dues, half an hour late the rain did stop and the blue sky appeared. I couldn’t have got out the door quick enough.

The River Roch just down the road looked unusually like white water rapids and I thought that I’d never seen it so full or so fast and imagined that it would’ve washed away a lot of the banks when they re-emerged. This afternoon out for me was an aberration in the weather’s plans but what did shortly emerge when the water went down was much more sinister that the local river banks as, described by local newspaper, the headline this time read: ‘Severed ear’ found in river in Bury.

It turned out that a man had discovered the human ear washed up by the River Irwell, just outside the town centre, following the surge brought about by Storm Desmond (pronounced Desmond) and he’d immediately alerted the Police who immediately began their investigations. Their greatest fear, no doubt, was that teenage knife crime has claimed another victim or, even worse, that Vincent van Gogh was back.

On Christmas night I was up late enough to hear the torrential rain start at about 1am, brought in by Storm Eva (pronounced Eva), and over the next day it just didn’t seem to stop which led to every river in Lancashire attaining its record height. The great Boxing Day floods of ’15 that followed, which will long be remembered by a generation, were unprecedented and caused footbridges to be swept away and gas mains to explode in Radcliffe; they swamped the fields of Goshen just down the road or, more pertinently, just down the hill; they swept away a massive 200 year old pub in Summerseat; and they pretty much wiped out the town of Hebdon Bridge.

Fields of Goshen Rochdale River Roch

Pictures taken by locals. The fields of Goshen and the underwater kingdom of Hebdon Bridge.

The town centre of Rochdale was also completely flooded and it was almost with a sense of pride that I saw the River Roch making it on the primetime national news. The irony of Rochdale was that the river flows underneath it, as the town was built on the widest bridge in Europe, and for aesthetic reasons – to make Rochdale more like London, or Paris, or something – the council planned to “uncover” the river in the town centre once again and restore café society, or something.

A job now done, it seemed. Visitors are warned that they might require armbands.


A local picture of Rochdale town centre. No running, no jumping, no bombing, no petting.

This remarkable flooding only led a plethora of local wags to comment about how when the council said they were working to reveal the river in the town centre they were pretty sure that this wasn’t what they’d meant; whilst others, without a firm grasp on proceedings, questioned whose idea it was to open up the river in the first place and asked when they would be closing it back up again?

I went on to discover that there’s a hardworking robot lurking somewhere in the River Roch at Blackford Bridge, with its own Twitter account, who measures the river depth every day and posts the information up on the internet for all to see. Consider the facts: anybody would have had a problem if on Christmas day you had a water depth of thirty centimetres with a further three metre tsunami heading your way. What a difference a day makes.


All this bad weather and flooding didn’t seem to start until the UK public were allowed to start naming the storms and with Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, and Frank to start with that’s mostly naming them really badly. I had a sneak peak of what’s to come (CONTAINS SPOILERS) and this year we can apparently look forward to a Storm Gertrude, a Storm Katie, a Storm Nigel, a Storm Rhonda, a Storm Tegan, a Storm Vernon, a Storm Wendy, and the worst of all: Storm Steve.

Speaking as one myself I despaired how they couldn’t have just put an N on the end of it to allow it some sort of dignity as instead, addressing a stranger so informally, they’ve let an anthropomorphised bag of wind sound like an open-shirted mobile disco operator who operates out of pubs in the Oldham area most weekends and fawns over Lambrini girls.

     Storm Steve: Coming 2016.


As for The Case of the Missing Ear the Police at the riverbank crime scene were baffled and called in for forensic back-up. The boys in the lab carried out their tests, DNA and the like, and made a startling breakthrough: they ruled out that the severed human ear was a symptom of local gang tensions bubbling over, partly because it was made of latex, mainly because it was part of an old Halloween costume.

     Case closed.



1 – The rest of the headline continued: “from 40ft-high Bury Art Picture House sign by fire crew”, because they only go in for pithy crash-bang-wallop headlines around here.



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13 thoughts on “Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, and the Case of the Missing Ear

  1. And if you thought those pictures weren’t bad enough and wondered what a Radcliffe bridge being dismantled and the resulting gas explosions might look like then here’s a local’s video. Shaky, but at least he’s holding his phone the right way around.

  2. What a foul Christmas experienced by all those people affected by the floods. It sounds as if you live up a hill so were unscathed.

    What has happened to Health and Safety standards in the U.K.? I thought it was only here in France you were allowed to stand teetering on the edge of a cliff or wade into an intermittent spring without barriers to protect both the tourist attraction and tourist. I can’t believe how close all the people in the video were to the bursts of fire and gushing water. I like the explosion of good old Anglo Saxon from a bystander and the question ‘did you not get to turn it off?’. I’m not sure whether the question was directed to a Hi Vis jacketed person about the gas installations or toward the operator of the phone as he seems to be pointing it at unrelated scenery at that point.

    In light of the news that some of the U.K.’s once popular boys’ names have almost become extinct, I am pleased to see they are trying to preserve them by at least using them for storms and for that reason alone Storm Nigel might be welcome. I think there should also be a Storm Gary and, of course a Storm Norman (pronounced gnaw – man)

    It’s only going to get worse – or so they say – and I hope you have girded your loins ready for the onslaught of snow which catches the authorities by surprise every year no matter how often it happens now.
    Keep dry!

    • Yes, destruction and devastation all around me. I’m not sure if they expected that to happen but I did assume it was gas people they were talking to. On Boxing Day the staff available must have been spread very thinly as all hell was breaking out all over. The drone footage of the destroyed pub in Summerseat I’m led to believe went around the world.

      I don’t know why we’ve started naming storms. We’ve had the tail end of named hurricanes before, but now we have oddly named winds coming at us fast and loose.

      And everything has been so wet here for so long that a friend commented just yesterday that she’s so fed up of mud that she’d embrace spring or snow. Snow would be a blessed relief right now as then at least I’ll be able to walk across our back garden to feed the birds.

  3. Glad to see you’ve not lost your sense of humour in the beleaguered North West. ‘No running . . .’ remark much appreciated. Just wondering are the storm names computer or committee selections? From Gertrude to Wendy seems pretty random.

    • I wasn’t sure if the swimming pool references would confuse many. I guess it’s an odd thing we’ve grown up with in the UK. I hope they still have them though.

      The storm names are all chose by the public, so they say, but how these choices get chosen I do not know.

  4. As a local. This is the most hilarious report of the floods I’ve read. And the swimming pool notices genius? (For foreigners, these are the prohibitions found on every UK swimming pool walls). Really you should be writing comedy. Love Denise

    • Thanks. For my rant against Storm Steve I originally had it as someone operating a mobile disco in the Bolton area, as I just wanted some local place with no intended slight against it whatsoever, but thought of you and didn’t!

      I stuck my neck out offending any Stevens and Steves, but like when (originally) feeling uncomfortable with a blonde James Bond I felt that these were the two occasions when I could be prejudiced because I am one.

      I found that the storms hit home much more when all of a sudden they’re on your doorstep. Quite extraordinary sights. I hope (and assume) you were unaffected.

  5. I agree Storm Steve sounds wrong, but all these storms are wrong, and I see the government is again getting us to look the wrong way by making the EA answer for the dreadful floods and not its practice of pursuing policies taht are encouraging climate crisis.
    Loved the ear story, but sorry to confess that your spellings made me smile more. I particularly enjoyed ‘for ascetic reasons’. Somehow I think you mean aesthetic. 🙂

    • I agree. I have a friend who works for the British Geological Survey and a couple of years ago she was on Breakfast TV talking about methods of sustainable drainage in the aftermath of some big flood then. The sort of stuff that should be imposed on people building new areas. They are stuff I’ve never heard talked about since.

      You know I check my spelling the best I can but with Ascetic / Aesthetic I came unstuck because I didn’t know that Ascetic existed as a word. I see now it’s “a person who leads an austerely simple life”, so I guess I could be described as an ascetic.

  6. We saw coverage of the floods here in the news, and one of the stories mentioned a town cut off from the local doctor because the bridge washed away. Was that the bridge? The locals asked for the army to come in and build something but nothing happened, and it took ages to go around by road.

    • No, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that bridge. Not the one with the gas explosion as I think that’s just the bridge to Asda supermarket! There were a number of bridges with trouble. The (second) link above with the pub I know people who live there and half the people were being evacuated depending which side they lived on. I know there were much bigger bridges in trouble, declared unsafe, or swept away, in the Lancashire/Yorkshire area but I couldn’t say which matches to your story. As you can imagine our news had a lot to report then.

    • I do remember seeing pictures of that, and see now the problems are still continuing, and still no footbridge connecting them, but that’s in Yorkshire and about 40 miles over to the right from us.

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