The title of Flood is very straightforward – it offers an eyewitness account of the floods of 2013 and 2015 that devastated large areas of the UK, including my hometown of Hebden Bridge. Throughout the collection, flood also acts as a metaphor for other powerfully destructive experiences – the Jimmy Savile story, breakdown, hospitalisation, bereavement, the end of a relationship, trauma. It’s not all about destruction though – as much as Flood describes how destructive experiences can hurt us, it also expresses how we survive them as individuals and communities; how we support each other to recover and rebuild.
This collection is a long love letter to the Calder Valley. Starting with my Burnley childhood, it tells the story of how I finally found my family and community in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge: it delights in the urban and rural landscapes of West Yorkshire. Referencing other flooded areas of the UK, it celebrates the landscapes I love, like Cumbria. And it’s a love letter to ‘my people’ – the people who sustained me – my daughter, my community and my friends. And beyond that, the people through whom the most difficult narratives played out: my mother; the relationship I fought and failed to save; long-term patients in a 1990s psychiatric hospital.