Tag Archives: childhood

The Child Lingers…


Christmas has come and gone. Family members may have already left and returned home. The decorations will soon come down, the tree will be removed and we’ll start the long march until next Christmas.

All over the world certain phenomena occurred on Christmas morning. Mom’s and dad’s got down on the floor and played with the kid’s toys. It may have been the railroad set, the electric cars, a drone outside in the yard, Lego’s or other “you build it” kinds of toys.

We were at our youngest son’s home for Christmas day. One of the family gifts that gave to their entire family was Keva Maple Planks. How can I explain them? They are somewhat like the old Lincoln logs, except they are all the same size and shape and you build things with them simply by stacking them in creative ways. Our two youngest grand daughters had been playing with them before we go there and they eagerly showed them to us.

After Christmas dinner, our son disappeared into the other room and we quickly found him playing with the Keva Maple Planks. It took me back to the days when he and his older brother and sister would get Lego’s by the bucketful for Christmas and they’d play with them for hours. Even today, when we get together, if there are Lego’s, they’ll play with them.

There is something about us that I think is fascinating – a part of childhood remains with us even into our old age. Maybe it’s because of memory, or perhaps it is a self-defense and mechanism of denial about our aging. But I think it is more likely that when we play like children, the burdens of adulthood disappear for a while. And we feel young and carefree once more.

Maybe Christmas should come more often!

ON HIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1975, a coal mine explosion followed by a flood killed at least 372 workers in Dhanbad, India, on this day in 1975.

Hundreds of miners were working at the Chasnala Colliery on the evening of December 27 when an explosion suddenly shook the large mine. In virtually all coal mine disasters, the precise cause of the explosion is never determined, but the nature of mines leaves only a few probable causes. Often pockets of highly flammable gas develop, including methane, which can be released suddenly during mining. When a surge of gas from an unknown pocket fills the mine, even a small spark from the mining equipment can trigger an explosion. Today, owners attempt to ventilate the mines to prevent this occurrence. Also, extremely fine dust from the coal can circulate and suddenly combust within a mine or explosives used in the mining process can be mishandled, leading to disaster.

Whatever the exact cause of the Dhanbad mine explosion, the disaster was compounded when the ground shook so violently that millions of gallons of water from a nearby reservoir flooded into the pits. Miners who survived the initial blast were trapped under a mountain of debris and drowned when the water surged into the mine. Rescue workers attempted to dig out survivors until January 19, but no one was saved. In fact, only a small portion of the bodies were ever recovered.

The local workers union claimed that there were nearly 700 workers killed in the mine, but the company maintained that there were only 372. Because so many bodies were not recovered and the state of record-keeping at the mine was so shoddy, the truth will never be known.



Sometimes a Girl Just Gets Tired

Click for a larger version of the image..,
Click for a larger version of the image..,

My last two weeks have been bonkers.  It seems that every day I have things I plan to get done for work, but then eleven zillion other things come up and I never or seldom get around to what I’d planned to work on.  I think that in order to get some of those things done, I may just have to shut down email and instant messaging so I can focus!

I know I’m not alone.  I know others at my work are experiencing the same thing.  It happens.  The old saw about “When it rains it pours!” never seems more true than when talking about work.  Or problems.

It happens to little ones, too.  This is my youngest grand daughter and she loves to play, play, play!  (Who can blame her, right?!?!  I love to play, too!)  And play she does.  Then, all of a sudden, it’s like she hits an invisible energy wall and she will sit down and conk out!  This picture was taken a few months ago when she’d been very excited and had played hard and was all amp’d up for quite some period of time, and then…BOOM!  But it made for a nice picture!  And even better, it makes a great excuse for grandpa to pick her up and carry her around while she falls asleep on his shoulder!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1918, Della Sorenson killed the first of her seven victims in rural Nebraska by poisoning her sister-in-law’s infant daughter, Viola Cooper. Over the next seven years, friends, relatives, and acquaintances of Sorenson repeatedly died under mysterious circumstances before anyone finally realized that it had to be more than a coincidence.

Two years after little Viola met her demise, Wilhelmina Weldam, Sorenson’s mother-in-law, was poisoned. Sorenson then went after her own family, killing her daughter, Minnie, and husband, Joe, over a two-week period in September.

Waiting only four months before marrying again, Sorenson then settled in Dannebrog, Neb. In August 1922, her former sister-in-law came to visit with another infant, four-month-old Clifford. Just as she had done with Viola, Sorenson poisoned the poor child with a piece of candy. The unfortunate Mrs. Cooper, still oblivious to what was happening, came back again in October to visit with yet another child. This time, Sorenson’s poison didn’t work.

Early in 1923, Sorenson killed her own daughter, Delia, on her first birthday. When Sorenson’s friend brought her infant daughter for a visit only a week later, the tiny infant was also poisoned. After an attempt on Sorenson’s second husband’s life left him sick–but not dead–authorities began to think that there might be a connection between these series of deaths.

Finally, in 1925, Sorenson was arrested when she made an unsuccessful attempt at killing two children in the neighborhood with poisoned cookies. She confessed to the crimes, saying, “I like to attend funerals. I’m happy when someone is dying.” Sentiments like this convinced doctors that Sorenson was schizophrenic, and she was committed to the state mental asylum.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In Egypt, redheads were buried alive as sacrifices to the god Osiris.

…Childlike Curiosity

Double click for a larger version...
Double click for a larger version…

OK, so I like to tease people.  I really do.  I am careful, though, to only tease those I love and who I know fairly well.  I don’t go up and start teasing folks I don’t know or with whom I am barely acquainted.  Doing so could result in a swift knuckle sandwich, and I prefer other fare for lunch!  But when it comes to family and good friends…well, all bets are off.

My wife isn’t a teaser.  She, bless her heart, has learned to put up with my teasing for the most part, so it is rather unusual when she teases someone else.  She might say that in the incident that I’m about to relate to you that she wasn’t teasing…she was just telling a fairy tale of sorts.  But the outcome was really cute, regardless…

A bit over a week ago, our middle child and his family came out for a barbecue.  Their family includes our two youngest grand daughters, ages six and three.  Now at that age, children are fairly gullible and are easy targets for teasing or tall tales.

Not too long before they came, my wife had ordered some decorations that are meant to be attached to a tree.  They are called fairy doors because they are supposed to be doors and windows that the fairies use to get into the inside of a tree.  My wife had installed them on a couple of trees outside our place so they would be there when the little girls arrived.  When they got here, she made a point out of showing them the “doors” (which are round in shape, sort of like Hobbit-doors) and explained that they are fairy doors.  The little ones were captivated and walked over to the closest decorated door to check it out.  I, naturally, had my camera and caught a photo of them as they began to inspect the doors.  Then, the littlest one reached out and knocked on the door so the fairies would open up and she could see them!  I felt so fortunate to capture the moment….

There were some rather interesting expressions on their faces after no one answered, and then oldest eventually pulled one side of the “door” aside to see if there was a hallway leading from the back of the fairy door into the tree.  When she realized she’d been “had”, she got the cutest expression on her face!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1897, the very first copies of what would become the quintessential vampire novel Dracula, by Irish writer Bram Stoker, appeared in London bookshops.

A childhood invalid, Stoker grew up to become a soccer star at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in civil service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail. In this way, Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three decades, writing Irving’s voluminous correspondence for him and accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he published his first novel, The Snake’s Pass.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897 novel Dracula that eventually earned him literary fame and became known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania–a region of Eastern Europe now in Romania–to Yorkshire, England, and preys on innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had originally named the vampire “Count Wampyr.” He found the name Dracula in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library during his family’s vacations there.

Vampires–who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of humans–were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but Stoker’s novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century literature. Upon its release, Dracula enjoyed moderate success, though when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula by name. Sales began to take off in the 1920s, when the novel was adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with Universal’s blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with his exotic accent, remains the best known Count Dracula.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The world’s largest stockpile of gold can be found five stories underground inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault and it holds 25% of the world’s gold reserve (540,000 gold bars). While it contains more gold than Fort Knox, most of it belongs to foreign governments.

…Swingin’on a Gate

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Double click for a larger version of the image

I was just a little fella when we moved from Iowa…and that was part of the reason we moved…I was too little.  I suffered a lot during my first 8 years or so of life due to chronic respiratory problems that were exacerbated every winter by the harsh Iowa weather.  It snowed more back in those times, and it also seems to have been colder, and from the time of the first cold air of the season until spring arrived, I struggled.  My lungs never had time to fully recover before the next winter would roll in with blizzards and snowfall.  It finally reached the point that the doctors told my folks that if I was going to live, we needed to move to warmer climes so my lungs could recuperate.  Because of all those early years, I didn’t grow normally.  I like to think it still affected me…that somehow, if not for the stunted growth those first 9 years, I’d probably be 6’5″ tall today!

But, oh, how I loved the spring and summer in Iowa!  I was as healthy as I would get while we were still living there and I was outside playing from dawn until after the fireflies went to bed for the night.  It was great…and I have such wonderful memories of those spring and summer days!  We had gates on the farm…plenty of gates!  They divided the animal pens from the barnyard and fields and from the area around the house.  I don’t know how many gates there were, but some were large enough that a tractor pulling a combine could be pulled through them, while others were only large enough for a person to pass through.  One gate in particular, the one that was outside the back door of the house and separated the yard from the hillside, was my favorite gate.  I’ve shared a picture of it before…and today’s photo is NOT that gate.  But when I saw this gate this past Saturday afternoon, the memories came flooding in.  I recall standing on the horizontal supports of that gate, side by side with my sister, watching our dad working the fields or tending to animals or taking the trash to the hillside to burn it (in those days, there wasn’t any garbage pickup – especially on farms!) whil the summer breeze ruffled our hair.

So, I just had to shoot this gate.  It is a reminder of a part of my life that though long ago, is as clear as a bell even to this day!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris (GCD: I suppose since it dealt with the French Revolution, they could have had a contest to design a new guillotine instead!). Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor.

Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed, Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural masterpiece.

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United States to design the tower’s famous glass-cage elevators.

The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower’s stairs with a few hardy companions and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure’s flagpole. Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200 workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 1815, Captain James Riley and his crew of the Commerce drank camel urine to stay alive after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and had to cross the Sahara Desert to reach home.  (I much prefer Dr. Pepper myself, I think…but then again, I’ve never tasted camel urine!)

Flower Power


They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  I don’t know if that’s true, but there are certain things that seem to appeal to women.  Chocolate is one!  Jewelry is another.  Flowers are almost always welcome, even when in the case of this five-year-old, they are dandelions.

Why is it that even a dandelion can so capture a young heart?  Is it that they don’t yet know enough to realize that a dandelion is typically considered more weed than flower?  All they see is that there is a flower on the end of a stem – they’re not into classifying things and grouping them and labeling them.  They just accept things as they are and find delight in them.

What a lesson for us grown-ups!  We seem to apply labels to everything and everyone.  Why do we do that?  Is it because we’ve been taught that we have to have everything in its proper place?  And who is it that decides what that “proper place” is?

I totally love the innocence of childhood.  I hope I never do anything to take an of it away from my grandchildren!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: With so much of the United States having just endured several major weather systems, I thought this was appropriate for today: a hail storm devastated the farming town of Moradabad, India, killing 230 people and many more farm animals on this day in 1888. Sixteen others died in nearby Bareilly.

In the Central Plains region of Uttar Pradesh, March and April are the prime seasons for hail. However, the hail storm that struck on April 30, 1888, was far more intense than usual and is now the stuff of legend in India. The hail was accompanied by strong winds that toppled many structures and homes in the area.

Although it occurred at midday, the storm brought clouds that were so dark and thick that people reported that it seemed like night. There was no warning system in place at the time, so the area’s many farmers were out working their fields when the storm began. Most of the victims died instantly when hail the size of oranges rained down from the sky, striking them. There were reports that the hail accumulated up to 2 feet high in some spots. Thousands of farm animals were also killed by the sudden hail storm.

More advanced meteorology and advance-warning systems now help to prevent such storms from taking so many lives.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Greece organized the first municipal dump in the Western world around 500 B.C.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was born in Iowa.  I spent the first years of my life as a kid on the farm.  The farm was nothing spectacular…only 80 acres in the heartland of America.  The soil was rich and black, watered from the sky and sheltered by the billowing white clouds floating overhead.

I was just a child when we lived there and so life on the farm was more like a dream to me, a Never-Never Land of sorts, where a young boy could ride a horse through the tall prairie grasses in pursuit of imaginary bison or deer.  I recall standing in the barnyard with my father (God rest his soul) looking up at a darkening sky with black clouds twisting and turning in a maelstrom of wind and fury, then glancing off to the west to see a funnel cloud marching across the distant farmlands.

To be able to return to one’s roots as an adult, even for a few hours, is a blessing – at least in my case.  My childhood, though poor, was a very happy one.  The farm house we lived in was small, but I didn’t realize it at the time.  As with most things from our earliest years and memories, they take on a size far out of proportion to their real dimensions.  It is only when we see them later that we realize that either they shrank or we grew…or both.

Outside the back porch of our farmhouse was a fence and small gate that led to a gentle down-slope which culminated in a line of trees and a fence that separated the farmland from the hillside.  My sister and I spent many hours climbing on that fence and countless trips through that gate to play on the hillside, walk to the mulberry tree where we gorged ourselves on mulberries (yes, we stained our clothes with the mulberry juice!) or to take the trash out to the burn-pile (there was no such thing as garbage service on the farms in those days).

Much to my delight, the gate is still there, and when I was there for our family reunion, I took several photos of it, one of which is the featured image today.  As I took this photograph, I intentionally blurred the distant objects in favor of a sharper focus on the nearer ones.  It seemed to me to be appropriate.  As I looked through that open gate, I wondered if the gate was open to beckon me to the past or to the future.  In either event, what was visible in the distance was blurred – one by a fading memory and the other by the unknowns of the future that only God holds in His hands.

But, the open gate beckons, calling me to step through and perhaps to once again ride a horse on an imaginary journey through the tall grasses, or to give full-head to the horse as it carries me headlong into the future.  Either way, I suspect it shall be a great adventure, one worthy of epic tales and historical renown.  Will you join me?

_MG_2819_20_21_tonemappeddeON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: The Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), one of the Civil War’s most crucial combats, began. In the battle Confederate troops led by Gen. Robert E. Lee fought against Union troops led by Gen. George Meade. The battle ended three days later when Confederate troops were forced to retreat back to Virginia.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Whitcomb L. Judson invented the zipper but you may not know why the letters YKK are on most zippers.  Here’s why: in 1934, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushililaisha (I’m glad I didn’t have to pronounce that!) was founded. Sixty years later they changed their name to YKK Co. The privately owned firm, headquartered in Japan, now is made up of 80 companies at 206 facilities in 52 countries. Wow! you say? but of course, the demand for zippers is great. YKK makes everything from the dyed fabric around the zipper to the brass used to make the actual device.


Children Are Children Everywhere

While in India, we visited several schools that had been started in the slums by a  partnership between Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA and Operation Mobilization/India.  The students in these schools are nearly all Dalit children.  You may know that there is a caste system in India that came about primarily through Hindu teaching.  Technically speaking, there are four main castes…with that Brahmans at the top – the priestly class.  There is what is largely considered a fifth caste, the Dalits.  They were once called the “untouchables” because members of the higher castes believed they would be polluted if they came into physical contact with a Dalit.  The Dalits really are not a caste…they are considered to lowly to be in a caste and are relegated to jobs like cleaning toilets, dealing with dead animals, etc.  They are told from the time they are born that they are nothing, that they amount to nothing, and that they are worth nothing.  It has had tragic consequences.

Today’s photo was taken at one such slum school.  There are no people in the photo but I think it still communicates the thought that entered my mind when I saw this scene: children are children, whether they are the offspring of kings or of Dalits.  They love to be children – to have colorful and fanciful cartoons characters painted on walls, to have shoes to wear that are colorful and fun to wear (as I looked at these shoes, they reminded me of the shoes of my grandchildren).  They laugh, they cry, they get hungry and sick, they love their moms and dads and are loved in return (in most cases).

When I saw this string of shoes sitting outside of a classroom, I almost wept, thinking of my little grandchildren back in the states who go to school like the Dalit children do, but who are told that they can do or become anything they want to be.  Quite a different culture.  But thankfully, through education, the plight of the Dalits is slowly showing signs of improving.  Just being able to speak English gives them huge advantages as far as work possibilities in later years in India.

So here’s to children: I wish you all a happy and safe and protected childhood.  You will have to grow up too soon the way it is, so laugh and have fun wherever you are because you are precious and valuable and one-of-a-kind!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, the FBI announced the capture of eight Nazi saboteurs who had been put ashore by a U-boat on New York’s Long Island.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Louisa May Alcott despised little girls and only wrote her classic novel, Little Women, because she wanted the money.


A Child’s Simple Delights

Why is it that kids can be endlessly happy with just a few things and we adults have such insatiable appetites for the newest, fanciest, flashiest, most modern of everything?

When I was a boy on the farm in Iowa, we didn’t have much “stuff.”  I don’t say that to gain sympathy, because my childhood was WONDERFUL in spite of not having much in the way of toys.  My toys were sticks and rocks, a baseball mitt and a ball.  That was about it.  And I had the greatest time with just those things!!!!

I see so many kids today who aren’t content with what they have, who always want more, More, and MORE!!!!  I suppose that isn’t really all that shocking…it is human nature to be rather self-centered and “in it for what’s in it for me.”  But what surprises me is how parents these days give their kids everything, in abundance!  If the kid asks for it and mom and dad say no, the kid starts to whine…and wear down mom and dad until they finally give in.  That’s a horrible precedent.  It is important for kids, and adults, to learn to do without.  We forget how much we already have.  We’ve forgotten how to be content and satisfied…even to consider ourselves blessed to have as much as we do.  That’s one thing I learned in Haiti.  When I went down there, we’d been struggling financially for a while, I was feeling pretty doggone low and unhappy about what we DIDN’T have.  I had my perspective changed…and I came back thankful for what we DO have.  (Don’t get me wrong, I still blow it often and get unhappy and dissatisfied again, but at least now after having been in a third world country I have a different frame of reference that I can use to view the world if I choose to do so.)

Enough of that rant.  On Sunday afternoon, I took this picture of part of a sitting jumper that our 4 month old granddaughter loves.  She wasn’t in it at the time, but she will sit in it and play with these things for hours on end.  She never seems to get bored with it.  I know that she will, of course, and that she’ll grow up and want things, too…but for now, I’m just amazed at how children can delight in the simplest things, and I wish I had more of that nature in me.

Delighting in the simplest things is a great trait to cultivate.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1907, Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first native American to serve in the Senate.  He resigned in 1929 to become Herbert Hoover’s Vice President.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: it was during the 1966 Macy’s Day parade that Ronald McDonald make his first appearance as a character.  In in 1987, a hot air balloon of his likeness was part of the parade.

Simple Joys and a Grandpa’s Heart

Do you remember when you got all excited to be given an ice cream cone?  Or to make one of those chain links out of colored construction paper so you could count down the days to Christmas?  How it was exciting to be given a candy bar or to go trick-or-treating?

Childhood should be a time of abundant, simple joys.  I had a wonderful childhood…one filled with all sorts of delightful experiences and very few painful ones.  I know that in many ways I was one of the lucky ones.  I’m very thankful for that.  I wish every child could have that kind of childhood, that no child would ever be abused, mistreated or go to bed without a full stomach.  That’s part of why I am moving into a new and different direction as far as what I hope to do for the rest of my life: helping kids regardless of where they live, to get food, water and protection.

We are 8 days away from moving.  We had two of our three kids and their families here for Thanksgiving…and what a wondrous time it was!!!  I’ve got the most wonderful family on earth: three kids who are all married to wonderful spouses, and 5 grandkids that make me the proudest grandfather in the history of the world.  But then, Friday came and our daughter and her family had to return home…so we had a long, tearful goodbye.  Today, our oldest son and his family went home…so we had a long, tearful goodbye.  Both of their families live in the Bay Area, and since we’re moving to Georgia, it’ll be some time before we see them again…and we won’t see them as often.  Sure, we’ll Skype a lot (at least that’s our intention), and while it’s great to be able to do so, it’s not the same as being in the same room and being able to feel their hugs or to give them a hug.  I won’t be able to buy my grand-kids an ice cream whenever I want.  These two families live close enough that on any given day, we could have drive down to see them.  Not after 12/5.  But we will be near our other son and his family.

While these things weigh heavily on our hearts tonight, this post is about simple joys…those known to kids.  Today’s photo was taken Friday afternoon.  Two of my granddaughters are in it, and my oldest on has just crash-landed in a small pile of leaves that she and her two cousins had raked up in the front yard.  I love the look of the simple joy of jumping into the leaves that is on her face.  What a wonderful time they had!  I wish I could be with all my kids and grand-kids every day to share simple joys with them!

The simple joys of childhood...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: there are 61 towns in the United States that have the word “turkey” in them,

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: in 1703 a two day “Great Storm” ripped through southern England flooding the Thames and Severin rivers, killing over 8000 people.