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Cockermouth one week after the floods

Chris Jackson | 09:47 UK time, Saturday, 28 November 2009

At first glance the carnage that had been beamed around the world via our TV screens had disappeared when I walked into the centre of Cockermouth.

They have done an amazing job cleaning up the main street from all the flotsam and jetsam that the waters had dumped on their way out to sea. The BBC Cumbria website has all the latest information on the clean up.

Cockermouth clean up operationNow though, instead of cars parked along the road there are skips. All neatly lined up along the kerbside. Vans loaded with workmen and tools to put right the damage are huddled together wherever they can find a space. It's a strangely ordered affair after all the chaos.

There is still a film of dirt on the street and pavements and it doesn't bear too close an inspection. A slight whiff of something unpleasant is just about noticeable.

As dusk falls we do a little bit more filming for Monday night's programme. Along with hitherto unseen footage we're pulling together stories of those caught up in the floods and following them through the aftermath. A TV crew might normally attract attention. Here we've been part of the furniture for just over a week and don't warrant a second glance.

For a Friday night it's eerily quiet and devoid of people. From behind closed doors you can hear the scraping of shovels along gritty floors and the thud of hammer and chisels still pulling off damp plaster. This is a sound that will echo through the streets for some time yet.

They'd put the Christmas lights up. With the power gone Santa and his reindeer hang cold and forlorn in the air. There's a sense that the festive spirit may need a bit of the Dunkirk spirit this season.

As I cross the street I stumble on a small pile of rubbish. You start to read strange things into what you find. Sodden tea bags have been deposited next to a child's silver tiara. It could be the remnants of a kiddie's birthday party or just a random mix of post flood detritus. It's hard to make sense of what's happened.

I pop to a supermarket for a drink. A new ritual has developed in the car park. Many of the shoppers are changing in and out of their wellies. Down the aisles I pass one couple who have clean shoes but whose clothes are spattered with mud. Any other time and you'd wonder how they had the front to be seen like that in public. Now there are no questions asked. At the checkout all talk is of which roads are open and how long it took to get to work.

Amongst the shops that have been ruined a few seemed to have escaped the worst.
I peer into one window where the lights are on. The flooring has been torn up but in the back, on a raised level, it's business as usual. A couple of hardy punters are still handing over money to the bookmakers.

I'm not sure anyone is taking bets on when life will be back to normal in Cockermouth.


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