Write about a time when the weather made an important difference in your life.
You could write about:
· Things that made the biggest impression on you
· How the experience made a difference to your life
· The way you feel about that experience now
You can download a word document version of this question and exemplar here
Timing: 1 hour including planning and checking
Assessment Objectives: AO5 (24 marks) and AO6 (16 marks)
Great storm of 1987 (15th October)
Woke to roof tile coming through dormitory window
Boarding house gathered in common room (power cut) – excitement and nerves
Day spent in village of Cranbrook helping clear fallen trees
The sheer power of nature – sense of my own insignificance
How even those things that seemed permanent can be swept away in a moment
Power of community and shared purpose – being part of something
Planted the seeds for my current interest in living a life of service
Wake up call – I came to recognise that life is fleeting and everything can change quickly
I look back with a feeling of nostalgia and fondness
It was exhilarating – break of routine and predictability of everyday life
I woke, not to the usual shrill alarm bell that used to echo through our dormitory on school days, but to the sound of howling, and of broken glass.
As I and the 11 other boys I shared my room with leapt from our beds, we were careful not to step on beads of glass that lay scattered across the wooden floorboards of the room. Near the shattered window, like some ugly piece of terracotta shrapnel, sat a broken roof tile that had been torn away and then flung into our lives by the violence of the storm raging outside. It was mid-October 1987 and the freak weather would go on to reap more than two billion pounds’ worth of damage, and claim several lives, before it was spent.
Micky, whose bed was nearest the light switch, was flicking it up and down, up and down, but it was clear that the power was out. We huddled closer to the window to gaze out towards the tennis courts and rugby fields beyond, fearful of the danger we might be in, but compelled to bear witness. I stared, mouth agape, as I watched a tree, branches roots and all, being dragged across the pitch; it was tearing a ragged muddy scar as it twisted and tumbled onwards.
Then the fire alarm blared and we grabbed dressing gowns and slippers, before streaming downstairs towards the common room and our muster point. Prefects were lining the route with flashlights, but I remember them shining the harsh beams in our eyes, rather than illuminating our way – I think they were as bewildered as we were.
At the bottom of the main staircase we were met by our Housemaster, Mr Judd, who was characteristically calm and cheerful, despite the chaos raging around our suddenly fragile-seeming sanctuary. He explained that the storm would blow itself out in a couple of hours, that school would be cancelled for the day and we would be involved in the clean-up operation in the local village (our school was situated in a rural part of Kent). I can remember that we erupted into spontaneous cheering and celebration, a cacophony to match anything the storm might muster!
Sure enough, a few hours later we stepped out into an eerie stillness, armed with saws, axes and one or two of the older boys had even been issued with petrol-operated chainsaws! As I took stock of the devastation left by the storm, I was shocked by the damage it had left in its wake. Trees, buildings, nothing had been left unscathed and I had this dawning realization that the world is far more ephemeral and fragile than it at first might seem. I can also recall feeling suddenly insignificant in comparison to the sheer brute force and indifference of mother nature.
However, that sense of sublime fear and awe was softened by a clear feeling of shared purpose and community. For the rest of that day we roamed the village, free to lend a hand as and when it was needed. Many of the locals shook our hands or made us tea and biscuits as we set about clearing debris or cutting away the branches that were blocking the roads leading in and out of the village. We told jokes, teased one another and made a difference where we could.
Looking back on those events now, I feel a sense of nostalgia, tinged perhaps with a little sadness. I have lost touch with so many of those lads now, even though at the time the bonds between us felt unassailable; sometimes Time can wreak havoc quietly and insidiously, but with as much brute force as the strongest of winds. I think, in many ways, the seeds for my interest in service and grassroots action were also planted that day. The great storm of 1987 took much away, but it left gifts and opportunities for new growth too. That roof tile was a wake-up call in more ways than one!