As the water passes its height and ebbs away from St Asaph, Ruthin and York, we look on with sympathy. This time round we had only minor puddles in our bedroom from water oozing through the stone walls. Back in July, the whole ground floor of our converted riverside barn was feet deep in black river water and devastated. The worst time, I now appreciate, is not when the water is swirling past your windows and gushing under your doors. While that's going on you have too much to do to panic or feel sorry for yourself – carrying stuff to safety, rescuing the cats and chickens, checking on neighbours – and everyone else wants to help. The misery comes later, when the rest of the world seems to be back to normal: the news no longer shouts "Floods devastate England and Wales", and yet your home is a wreck.
Outside lie enormous heaps of sodden possessions, not just beds and carpets that can be replaced, but once-loved books, old clothes, photographs and paintings that cannot. These stinking heaps do not instantly disappear but remain as a reminder of all you've lost until the insurers give the go-ahead. Then begin the phone calls and emails to loss adjusters, builders, engineers; the forms and databases of every item lost, with estimates, receipts and even photographic evidence to prove that you really did have that little wooden summer house that was completely swept away in the torrent.