Boston floods: Generosity of the suffering
People can be amazing.
When I was leaving the home of Karen Haywood, a flooding survivor in Boston, Lincolnshire, she was very concerned that I had something to eat and drink for my journey home.
This from a woman with whom I had spent the past three hours learning just how little she had.
She has mould growing up her walls, a storage box for a washing machine and no hope of an insurance company picking up the tap for the loss of pretty much everything in her home (she had no insurance).
I pointed this out, gently. But she was having none of it.
Proof, if it were needed, not only that those with the least often give the most but also that giving is an essential part of being human, of confirming a bond, of time valuably shared.
I came into contact with Karen last week for a commissioned assignment with the BBC.
Technically, I’ve failed the brief.
I was asked to do an intimate portrait of life after a recent flooding from the perspective of one person, about how their insurance claim is going and about the people who have got them back on their feet.
Karen, of course, ticks the first box but not the latter. She has no insurance and she is not back on her feet.
Tea bags with no means of boiling water, a broken television, a jar of jam with nothing to spread it on.
As Karen opened up to me about her experiences I became increasingly convinced that she was exactly the person I should be photographing and writing about.
Enough has been written about those able to afford their own generators along the Thames Valley, or who get Princes to lay their sandbags.
The experience of Karen stands outside this Blitz narrative of triumph over adversity.
Karen’s life has been crushed. Two months after the flooding, she has her son, her dog and not much else.
And I bet she’s not alone.