Richard Oliff: In South of France as storm raged

The aftermath of the 1987 storm
The aftermath of the 1987 storm
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On the night of Thursday, October 15, and Friday, October 16, 1987, I was working in the south of France.

My job involved driving my company Ford Granada Ghia all the way from Gretton to Provence- Alpes-Côte d’Azur in my capacity as a regional sales manager for a manufacturer of luxury mobile homes.

I was lucky. It was during this period that I was able to drive around mainland Europe, giving me a first-hand education in alternative cultures, doors of experience which would otherwise have remained closed.

I say this purely because of the sheer cost to my employer of having someone like me swanning around some of the most beautiful parts of Europe, an expense I could never have privately matched.

These were the days before the kind of communication that is taken so much for granted today.

My bedside fixed line telephone my only direct link with the outside world.

On the evening of October 15, I sipped my G ‘n’ T overlooking the vast curve of the Promenade des Anglais, the signature crescent of one of my favourite towns, Nice.

The wire from the telephone stretched out to the balcony as I began to make my usual call home.

Meanwhile and unknown to me, the BBC’s weather forecaster Michael Fish had made his now famous pronouncement, telling viewers to ignore any rumours of a hurricane.

I remember it being quite late in France as the characteristic French dialling tone began its intermittent “brrr”.

I was expecting to have a normal conversation with my other half in Gretton, instead of which I was greeted by a voice in somewhat of a panic.

It was the first inkling I’d had of just how devastating the storm that had hit southern England had been. Fast forward to last Sunday night, and as the winds began to strengthen, we braced ourselves for a repeat performance.