Festive spirit alive in Ottery

IT will be a merry Christmas for some brave Ottery flood victims, who despite enduring months of misery, are in good spirits on the long-road back to normality.

IT will be a merry Christmas for some brave Ottery flood victims, who despite enduring months of misery, are in good spirits on the long-road back to normality.

Pensioners Duncan and Pat Docherty have endured a daily "comedy of errors" after being left homeless when muddy water wrecked the downstairs of their Thorne Farm Way home of five years. They were told they wouldn't be back in for at least six months and a lack of activity had them fearing an even longer stint.

However, having been re-homed in Broad Street at the end of November, the couple unexpectedly received exactly what they wanted for Christmas on Monday when they discovered work has begun to repair their home.

Duncan, 84, said: "Nothing seems to have gone right- we have been back and forth and nobody has been about. But this morning (Monday) everything changed, workmen were in there getting started.

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Pat, 79, said: "Every day you get up and hope for something to happen, and it did today. I haven't been able to sleep properly, food doesn't taste the same, but we are now beginning to feel we can occupy our time in different ways now.

The couple, whose living room is packed with more than 60 Christmas cards, will treat themselves to a special Christmas lunch at the Tumbling Weir Hotel tomorrow and have praised Ottery's generous community spirit.

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Pat added: "We've had so many offers of kindness, people are so generous. If we needed help then the people here would give it, it's a good community."

There was more good news for Susan Smith, whose uninsured family home in Victoria Terrace was gutted by water. Having moved into new accommodation in Yonder Street last week, her first visitor was chairman of East Devon District Council Paul Diviani, who handed over a cheque for £500.

Delighted Susan, 49, is the first beneficiary of the Ottery St Mary Flood Relief Fund and said the cash will go towards a replacement sofa.

In the last week flood fund trustees have handed over £4,600 to 14 recipients.

Councillor Diviani said: " The people of Ottery St Mary have shown great spirit with their offers of help, furniture and money and we have been honoured to match-fund their efforts.

"Susan is a tremendous example of fortitude in the face of disaster and was determined to get her new home ship-shape in time for her birthday, the day after we met. I'm sure everyone will join with me in wishing all those affected a better Christmas than they might have expected in the immediate aftermath of our stormy weather".

Smiling Ottery resident Martin Patterson will see his festive wish granted when his flood-hit family business re-opens next Friday (January 2).

Seasons Tea Rooms, in Silver Street, was left shut by "soul destroying" damage on October 30, but eight weeks of "hard slog" means Martin, 50, can kick off 2009 in perfect fashion.

He said: "The work we have put in has been harder than actually running the tea rooms, Im so happy to be re-opening and have missed the camaraderie with our regulars."

Martin battled rising water levels for hours during October's freak storm but was left helpless as water eventually beat his flood defences and surged into the tea rooms.

Extensive re-decorating has followed and has included the laying of a new concrete floor in the small tea room and the addition of two new oak floors.

Martin said the hard graft will all be justified when he can finally welcome customers old and new.

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