Nymphs Bathing: Flash Floods in Fareham

September 18, 2014

Maybe it’s because I’d been at the Maasdam the night before, but I had a bit of a weird dream in the early hours this morning. It was a blustery, grey day and I was walking along the shoreline at a place supposed to be Lyme Regis in the dream, though it had elements of Seaton and every other seaside town I’ve been to.

The tide was right in and there was no beach to speak of. I was trying to negotiate a near vertical rock face without getting my feet wet, waiting for each surge of waves to pass before proceeding laterally along, towards a grassy bank and a picket fence by a road.

In spite of the unsettled conditions, to my left was swimming a woman – possibly naked – who seemed at ease bobbing up and down on the swell. I think this painting by Paul Delvaux, called Bathing Nymphs (1938), captures the ambience of that dream.

Nymphs Bathing

Somehow, I made it to the bank and the fence without getting wet, clambering over it to reach the road.

The weather’s been pretty fine the last few weeks, pretty sunny and dry – the driest start to September for over twenty years, apparently. I expected it to be the same today.

Driving to work this morning, I thrilled to a flight of swans or Canada Geese (I couldn’t get a proper look without colliding with something), about a dozen or so, which flew low and fast, silhouetted against the grey skies.

Later, out on route, I was aware of rumbles of thunder and wondered if it would rain. Claude Debussy’s three-movement orchestral composition, Nocturnes, came on the radio, the opening bars of Nuages (Clouds) attuned to the sombre sonority of the weather. Occasional flashes of lightning would soon follow, and it was raining by the time the second movement, Fêtes (Festivals), started. I sat tight in the van after the rain started lashing down in sheets. It was now the third movement, Sirènes (Sirens) and its wordless female chorus. Had my dream of the swimming siren pointed to this?

The rain passed within the hour. It had taken a few of us by surprise. I heard there’d been flash floods in Fareham.

Paul Delvaux Les Femmes devant La Mer 1943

Paul Delvaux Les Femmes devant La Mer 1943

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