PART ONE: 5-6 December
On 5 December I go on a very wet pub crawl with some friends and it’s only when I get back home at 5pm that I realise the flooding is severe enough to potentially impact my parents, who are in their seventies and live in Kendal. My text, "Are you OK?" is answered with a terse, "Paddling in 6 inches of water". I call and, faced with their insistence that they can stay in the building, I reassure them it’s going to get worse before it gets better. There is no way I can reach them. We go to the pub and I am relieved to finally hear that they have left and are now staying with friends. I find out later that they gave up when the water reached knee height, largely because the furniture started toppling over and they realised there was nothing they could do. It was good timing; the water in the street outside was waist height on my Mum.
More torrential rain and the Ribble Valley near Skipton is a lake with the river defences barely visible. Meanwhile, Malham Cove has a waterfall. But the water is receding and the A65 at Settle opens by midday, where it had previously been blocked by the Ribble becoming, quite simply, bigger than the bridge under the road. I go to work for the day! With all roads into Kendal closed because of flooding and Cumbria police begging people to stay away, there is no way I can get to my parents; so this is a window for me to get a few things done before I go up to help the day after. The Kent always drops quickly in Kendal and with the water gone, my parents spend a gruelling day in the house trying to clear up, which at this stage means doing things like cleaning crockery. It's not dawned on them yet that a little bit of work on their part will not make the house become habitable. By the time I ring the house of the friends they are staying with just after 9pm, they are exhausted and fast asleep in bed.