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HOW WE NEARLY DIED IN TERRIFYING STORM; More amazing tales from Bob Monkhouse's diaries.

FUNNYMAN Bob Monkhouse had Sunday People readers in stitches last week with the first instalment from his hilarious new book Over The Limit. This week, 70-year-old Bob recalls the night that Frank Sinatra punched him, tells how he fooled his old mate Bobby Davro - and kicks off by telling how he and his wife nearly died in raging floods...

T was the first day of a holiday in Canada - and my sixty-ninth birthday.

As we strolled round the vast expanse of Vancouver's Stanley Park our little map told us we were circling the Lost Lagoon - but we'd ventured a bit further than we'd intended.

Behind the peaks of the Canadian mountains a cloud boiled up into the sky with all the speed of a locomotive.

Sparkles danced within its fast-growing inflation and it took us a moment to twig it was lightning.

We stood transfixed as baby clouds sprouted the first cloud from it and immediately gave birth to more, the crooked rods of lightning seeming to galvanise the process into greater urgency.

The night before we'd been warned of forthcoming rain and thunderstorms but when we'd left the hotel it had been a sunny, cloudless sky.

Now only half the sky was still blue, the other a stormy mantle of grey. The first strike of thunder shook us into action.

I turned to my wife Jackie. "Let's get going before it reaches us," I said.

A sign on a tree read TO THE BOATHOUSE and urged us to search for shelter should we need it. We were walking quickly by now but the fury that was filling the air was far quicker.

The bright sunlight of a few minutes before had departed as we started half trotting through the twilit pines.

With the darkness came a deafening crack, and as we crossed a clearing, a violent rush of rain hit us hard.

The raindrops were big and icy cold and we were soaked in seconds.

Some thickly clumped trees invited us to find refuge and we scurried beneath them. It was a bad move.

We were instantly covered with the muck of the dead grubs and insects washed from the branches by the dowpour.

As if to indicate the danger of standing under trees in a storm, a ragged bolt of lightning zapped into the woods behind us and we started running.

At first we'd tried to protect our heads with newspaper but it was beaten to pulp at once.

Our hair was flattened, clothes saturated and shoes full of rainwater. Visibility was down to about three metres but we could make out another sign: BOATHOUSE CLOSED.

We ran past the dark bulk of the shattered boathouse and up a path that had become a rushing stream down to the now invisible lake.

At its crest, the path joined a tarmac road and we could see cars swishing by, headlights full up and windscreen wipers lashing uselessly at the blinding gush.

We tried waving down a passenger car but the drivers

either couldn't see us or didn't want to stop.

Holding each other's hand, we kept running along the road which gave us harder footing than the soil but the wet leaves were a frightening hazard.

After five minutes we were breathless and exhausted. No more cars had passed by.

It seemed we were alone in an unceasing monsoon, bitterly cold and battered by a million watery bullets.

At the top of the rise the road sloped sharply downwards and veered left.

Halfway down this descent, the racing flood which covered our sodden shoes and was tugging at our feet, we lost our balance and fell onto our backs.

The ground was slick and and we began to slide forward helplessly to where the waters were rushing, a gaping storm drain.

Its mouth was high and wide enough to swallow us both with ease.

We were being sluiced to our deaths. Jac grabbed me and yelled above the racket of the storm, "Roll!" She flung herself to the left and, grabbing at my clothes, tried to roll sideways.

Getting the idea I attempted the same thing.

We'd already skidded several feet towards the big drain and we were still sliding.

But the action of the rolling increased our traction on the road surface and the sheer terror of being sucked into oblivion energised our efforts.

After some dificult and painful effort, with aching limbs and sore elbows and knees, we lay heaving with exhaustion on the road out of the strongest pull of the teeming current.

Coughing, I said, "Turned out nice again!" and sheer relief made us laugh.

We started up again and moments later we were hammering on the door of the Vancouver Rowing Club who phoned our hotel and a limo showed up ten minutes later.

Back in our hotel room a large bunch of flowers was waiting for us on the table, compliments of the manager.

The card said: "Welcome to Vancouver! Have a nice day."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Morrisroe, Clare
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Sep 20, 1998
Next Article:Q&A.

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