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LESLEY KEATING: Living the sun-kissed dream is OK, but I missed England

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Iwas shocked when I read that despairing flood victims have been paying 41p a minute calling a government helpline with all the money from the premium 0845 number going to a private firm.

The powers that be should be putting the cash back into helping those thousands of people in need not trying to make a pretty penny from someone else’s misfortune.

Many are counting the cost of having water-damaged homes and have lost so much – some of them all their worldly possessions.

And it’s not just flood water they have had to endure but also sewage bursting out from overflowing drains and enduring power cuts for days.

They are struggling to pay their bills yet when they need help they have been having to pay again.

I’m glad a cheaper phoneline has now been set up, but shouldn’t it have been free?

One of my friends who lives in a rural part of Somerset has had the worst flooding in her memory.

Her village has been cut off and her business ruined.

Another has just had to find a new home for her beloved horse because its paddock is under water. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight as the forecast predicts yet another month of rain and gales.

I count myself very fortunate and blessed that the weather hasn’t affected me, apart from delays and cancellations on the trains.

But our beloved Southsea has been affected. The Pyramids Centre has been closed, the Rock Gardens submerged and Canoe Lake swamped, but at least the swans had somewhere to sit as the water reached as far as the benches.

I recently had to travel to Southampton. Coming back I got stranded because a tree had fallen on the line so I took a different route only to get to Havant and find another tree was down.

But a rather charming couple coming back from France for the new year kindly offered to give me a lift home and wouldn’t accept any payment. So I would like to say a huge merci bien to them. And let’s hope this atrocious weather doesn’t last much longer.