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Carlisle: I will not forget you

Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News

ITV News Presenter Alastair Stewart reflects on his visit to flood-hit Carlisle and the people who are now dealing with Desmond's aftermath.

"I hope you told them it is a beautiful city and not to forget us."

A parting shot this morning, from a total stranger, as I sipped my coffee before heading south to work, to warmth and to the dry.

"It is, and I won't forget," I said.

The topographical prologue to Carlisle is spectacular: the Lake District - even human intrusions like the railway seem to be done sensitively. But there was early confirmation that not all the water had stayed in the Lakes.

Warwick Road was impassable for conventional vehicles for most of the weekend. Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News

For days, record rain has lashed these lovely lands and headed to the low points, via brooks, rivers and roads.

When I arrived in Carlisle, yesterday, I said to the taxi-driver: "Can you take me to Warwick Road?"

"No," was his firm but polite response. "Can't get through."

Sandbags barricade the Warwick Lodge B&B against the flood. Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News

With a little diplomacy and inventiveness we eventually got there: my meeting place was the Warwick Lodge B&B which boasted lovely rooms, a fine breakfast and sand-bags at the door.

The asphalt of Warwick Road itself was difficult to spot and where once were parked the cars of commercial travellers there stood life-boats.

Boats replaced cars as the main transport method after the rains. Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News

The emergency services were magnificent, everyone said. They'd come from Manchester, Berwick, Northumberland - wherever the need was less than here.

Red Watch, of the Berwick Fire & Rescue team, ferried Carol & Malcolm Farqueson to their flooded home, 'Sunnyside' where history had repeated itself.

Praise for the emergency services has been universal. Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News

They'd been flooded in 2005 and Malcolm quoted Yogi Berra a few times: "Deja vu, all over again."

I joined them, and watched and listened as they squelched through a cherished family home, across sodden carpets and ruined rugs.

They opened a cabinet, home to the 'family-best' silver and china, only for it to cascade like slurry onto the floor.

What wasn't broken was soiled.

Cherished pictures survived because they hung higher than the four foot water-mark left by the foul, invasive water.

They carried off some pictures and a carrier bag of good wine: they were staying with their daughter Claire, whose house had escaped the floods.

Their other daughter Lisa, who'd also been flooded, was also there, lapping up some real family TLC.

We put their story on TV - it is what we do.

We also reported on the Prime Minister being in Cumbria, of other parts of the north west and Scotland being flooded; we carried weather forecasts and a brilliant piece from science editor Alok Jha on the well, the science of it all; Paris conference, climate-change, carbon and all that.

For me, however, the Farqueson's story was gold-dust: Their stoicism; the love of a family; the unconditional care, heaped upon them by neighbours; the unquestioning, unflinching professionalism of the emergency services who came to their aid.

A man cycles through floodwaters in Carlisle. Credit: PA

They expressed quiet gratitude despite all their hardship.

There was no anger but not a little sadness.

They'll crack it, I thought, and bounce back - until the next time.

So yes, madam at the station, yours is a wonderful city made such by wonderful people.

And no, I won't forget it - or them.

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