I wasn’t even alive, but the story of the horrendous North Sea storm tide on the night of 31January 1953 loomed strangely large as a story in my childhood. The flood waters which surged out from the North Sea sixty years ago across the East coast of Britain and over the Dutch dykes caused a massive loss of life and damage, but I only found out about it all through a child’s book.
One of my best ever birthday presents was a subscription to a children’s monthly book club. The service was pretty dire; the books frequently failed to arrive but the ones that made it through became the basis of my reading for many years. They always had attractive and intriguing dust jackets, and in an era where paperback Armada and blue, red and green Dragon books dominated the shelves in our bedrooms, a hardback with a picture cover was a special treat to be treasured.
One of the more memorable adventure stories was Flood Tide, pictured above. I probably reread it a dozen times. It was a gripping tale of the survival of two Dutch children in the ensuing floods, and few other books in those days came anywhere near impacting my imagination in the manner of Flood Tide.
This morning on Radio 4, I listened to a couple of men recollecting their experiences of the floods in East Anglia. I immediately thought of Flood Tide, and was compelled to charge off in search of it. In this house of books in hidden places, it was no simple task, but I eventually unearthed it in Middle Daughter’s room.
I like to think it’s there because she picked it up and decided to read it, but it’s more likely I waved it in her face ten years ago and insisted she have a look at it.
At least there’s no doubt whose book it was and remains.