This week I wanted to share my second short story about a climate related theme. If you missed my first one, check out Caused By Climate Change. This new tale focuses on the increased occurrence of summer fires caused by extreme heat. The aim of my stories is to be bite-sized and thought-provoking. Hopefully you will enjoy it and it will highlight the idea that heatwaves are here to stay and we need to prepare for them and find ways to combat them.
A French Fire
When I applied to do a year in France working in a winery, I thought it was the perfect way to improve my conversational French before going to Uni. My mum was worried that I wouldn’t be able to look after myself but it turned out that that was going to be the least of my worries. A year of sun and cheap booze sounded like the best way to combine working with travel. I had so many plans to explore the region and expand my horizons.
As I settled myself into the grand farmhouse that belonged to Monsieur and Mme Dubois, I was amused by the cute puppy that bounced around the living room. Sipping from a French stew on that first evening, I was glad to be made feel very welcome by this wonderful family. It turned out that I wasn’t the only summer worker, as two others had been roped in and were of a similar age to me.
Gloria was from Hong Kong, with a slight eccentricity about her and Matt was another English gap year student. Both of them would end up being close friends and were incredibly supportive during the darker times.
Either side of me, at the dinner table, were Jacque and Claire, the kids of the household. Jacque was about 15 and Claire about 13. They were really smiley and very intrigued by their new guests. Jacque was constantly asking about London, which I knew very little about because I came from rural Yorkshire. Claire was fascinated by Gloria’s necklaces and was a little shy around Matt and I. She was very sweet and polite whereas Jacque was self-confident and cheeky.
“Do you ever work on the farms in England?” Jon, the father, asked us as he passed the bread.
“My grandad had a farm but he sold it before I grew up,” I said honestly.
“I am a city boy. But I love nature. I’ve climbed Snowdonia with my mates. Just not done any farming,” said Matt, pleased with himself.
Our lack of farm experience meant that we were learning everything from scratch. Thankfully we were all fast learners. After a couple of weeks, we sank into a routine and were soon spending our weekend together exploring the local villages and taking a train to the seaside town of Bren-sur-mer. The weather was getting very hot indeed and I had to make sure I plastered enough strong sun cream on to prevent me becoming a lobster. My skin definitely wasn’t used to this heat.
Gloria had brought a frisbee and we quickly exhausted ourselves throwing and catching along a stretch of beautiful beach. Finding shelter, we drank gallons of water and nibbled on seafood.
“Someone keeps ringing me,” moaned Matt, trying to pull his mobile out of his satchel.
“Me too,” I said as I finally checked my phone, which I’d left on silent, thinking nobody would need me any time soon.
Before either of us had time to think, Gloria was on her mobile and looking concerned.
“There’s a fire. It’s close to the vineyard. Jon wants us to come back and help make a barrier.”
“Make a barrier? Like how?” squeaked Matt.
“Maybe with water?” I suggested as we all picked up our bits and headed towards the station.
As our train headed towards our station, we could see smoke filling the air over the horizon. Perhaps we were too late to make a difference. I could hear sirens in the distance and the station itself seemed deserted. As we started to trudge back to the farmhouse, the smoke seeped into the air around us and we could tell it must be close to our fields.
Luckily, the farm house was unaffected but the two children were home alone and given strict instructions to send us to the northern field straight away. It was obvious that Claire had been crying and Jacque was trying to act strong for her sake.
“You need to wear a mask. Dad left some on the kitchen table.”
“Are you two going to be OK?” asked Gloria, with genuine worry.
“My aunt is on her way to keep an eye on us,” said Jacque, now starting to look tired.
After borrowing the Buggie, we made our way down the dirt track that led to the north field. The smoke was everywhere but it was our eyes that suffered most. Matt was driving and I was doing my best to cover my face while Gloria sat spitting out particles of dust and swearing constantly in the back seat.
When we arrived, Jon and his wife were digging up some plants and making a clear section between their crops and the neighbouring field.
“We have to make the gap large enough that the fire won’t jump,” said Louise, while pointing to more shovels that were resting against the trailer.
“Make sure you have your back to the fire,” shouted Jon as he furiously dug a few metres away.
I’d never seen anything like it. About two hundred metres away was a wall of flames, so high that it was impossible to see past them. They consumed the landscape and tore violently through the neighbour’s apple trees. It was a sight to behold and I could see the terror in Gloria’s eyes as she dug silently. Even Matt looked frightened but he tried to keep our hopes up.
“Could be worse,” he sniggered. “At least it’s not a hurricane.”
Neither of us was reassured by that. Soon we were smothered in choking smoke…
Waking up the next day in a hospital ward, I realised that I was lucky to be alive. At one point, we started to retreat but I was the last to pack up and was overcome with fumes on the Buggie as we left. Both Gloria and I had to be checked out by medics and spent the night in the local hospital.
Thankfully everyone else was alright but the north field succumbed to the blaze. A reporter stood at the end of my bed wanting to know what it felt like to be chased by a fire this huge. He told me it was all due to the heatwave and dry land caused by global warming.
“It was like nothing else I’d ever seen. When the wind changed the flames raced towards us. It stank. I really hope everyone else was safe.”
“You were incredibly lucky to escape with your lives,” he said honestly.
“These fires have been getting worse over the last five years. We never used to get them,” said Jon, looking forlorn. “I’m sorry you got caught up in this.”
“I guess we really need to start taking climate change seriously,” muttered Gloria who was in the bed across from me.
I thought about everything that had happened and announced, “Well it’s had an effect on me, that’s for sure. I’m going to change my degree and study Environmental Geography instead.”
Thank you so much for reading my short climate related story. I hope that it made you think as you drank your morning coffee or planned your summer holiday. Please consider following my blog for more articles about global warming as well as book, TV and film reviews. I hope that you all have a brilliant coronation day.
2 thoughts on “A Short Climate Related Story”
Thank you for sharing this eye-opener story. It’s a good one about climate changed and global warming. Malaysia is experiencing terrible heatwave now. It’s just sooooo hot here.
I hope your government is doing something to make it more bearable. Thanks for commenting.