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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Optimism reigns in flooded town
By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News, Gloucestershire

Alan Cresswell has such a good voice that it could be argued he is perhaps a singer who works as a barber, rather than the other way around.

Alan Cresswell, barber in Tewkesbury
A groom paddled to Alan Cresswell's shop on his wedding day for a cut

One thing he is definitely not, however, is a pessimist.

Even when his barber's shop in Church Street, Tewkesbury, was a foot and a half under water at street level, with a flooded cellar and a collapsed floor at the back, he was still cutting hair.

"My attitude when I saw the water inside my shop was 'Let's get it sorted'. There's no use in feeling sorry for yourself," says Alan, who is 66 and has been a barber for 50 years, 37 of those in this town.

"It was an eerie feeling being here in Church Street, everything had come to a halt. You could hear people talking down the other end of the road.

"Everyone was building everyone else up, saying, 'It's going to be fine'.

"It's not the damage you see when the water's there, the crunch comes when the water recedes. That's the reality."

Shop 'gutted'

Alan soon began working on getting his business back on track and was closed for only just over a week.

"I had top electricians and builders in. We had to gut the whole place, take the floor covering off, put new beams and floor in at the back, repair all the brick pillars, and rewire the whole place."

Alan slaps his hands together. "It took five days," he says triumphantly.

He does not yet know how much it all cost - "thousands and thousands" is his only estimate - and there is still plenty more work to be done.

Alan Cresswell's barber shop cellar after the floods
Alan's cellar was flooded and part of his shop floor collapsed

The floor is bare at the back where it fell in. The walls are damaged, the cellar is still muddy, and at one point there was 10ft of water in an area 30ft long and 15ft wide beneath the shop.

Alan is clearly the focal point of the community here, as there is a steady stream of people popping in, some for a haircut, some just for a chat.

Conservative leader David Cameron even came in several days ago on a visit to the area.

"The attitude in Church Street has been phenomenal," says Alan. "Everybody has been working to help clear up the place.

"The fire service, police, council and community have all been working hard."

I'd like to wish those affected the best of luck in clearing up
Sophie Shinigami, Belfast

Speaking of which, Alan is clearly not one to let a bit of flooding dampen his trade.

He slips in an anecdote: "Top story this, I haven't told anyone else this one."

He says a groom and best man paddled to his shop for a haircut on the morning of a local wedding, which he duly delivered while standing in waders.

"The place wasn't under water at the time," he says. "But it was soggy."

Floating dogs

Around the corner, busy piling up her furniture, kitchen units, fridge and flooring outside in the ironic sunshine, is Kate Parkinson, 47, who has a cottage in St Mary's Lane.

A special-needs teacher, she says that this was "not quite how I envisaged spending my school summer holidays".

Pete Lancaster and Kate Parkinson's flooded cottage
Pete Lancaster and Kate Parkinson had to rip out fixtures and fittings

She explains how she and her partner Pete Lancaster, 46, had barricaded their front door in the belief that the flood water would not be too destructive.

"I thought I might just get a soggy carpet. When we went to bed the water was up to the kerb outside, but we didn't think it would go any further.

"We put bedding and sandbags up against the door and Pete ran silicone around the edge to seal it.

"But I got a phone call at 0815 from my friend who lives round the corner telling me to go downstairs.

"When I did, the water was lapping at the bottom step, the sofa was ruined and I had to wade into the kitchen to rescue the dogs who were floating about in there.

"We hadn't prepared the kitchen at all, we didn't think it would get that far."

The couple are insured and are now busy stripping out and repairing their damaged property.

"I've been bleaching everything, because when the water receded it left mud and sludge and weeds behind," says Kate.

"It was a bit surreal to see your house that way. You had to wade through in wellies, then take them off at the foot of the stairs and walk up to a perfectly normal house.

"The floor consisted of chipboard and beneath that was polystyrene on top of concrete, so when that got wet it just created a three-foot high hill in the middle of my living room, only held down by the sofa. That was a bit weird."

'Positive' experience

The couple also echo Alan's sentiments that the community has rallied round, in a manner Kate describes as "brilliant".

She said: "The church offered washing facilities and overnight accommodation, Tesco donated tons of food, people were giving out duvets.

Pete Lancaster and Kate Parkinson's flooded home
Water rose several feet inside Pete and Kate's cottage

"Even the local cinema was showing children's films for free."

Pete contributed to this charitable and bonding spirit himself, making use of his giant inflatable boat to float around the town, helping people out.

It is slightly surprising when he describes the overall experience as being "positive", particularly when you see how their cottage has been devastated, at least downstairs.

"I've got to speak to people that live nearby but who I've never spoken to before in my life," he says.

"We used the boat to deliver cans of beer, got people out to go shopping, took a woman's mobile phone to be charged up when it was her only means of communication.

"One night, after the water had gone down, we all just sat out on the pavement, playing guitars, eating egg and bacon sandwiches, getting to know each other.

"I wouldn't have missed all this for anything."


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