A couple of weeks ago we had a spot of Weather. Not the normal, wet-stuff-coming-out-of-the-sky weather that’s been so unpleasantly familiar since mid November but real Weather. The type that sneaks up when you aren’t expecting it: the single, massive clap of thunder in the middle of the night that makes the bed shake, the hailstorm that appears out of a cloudless sky and destroys a complete crop of grapes in minutes or the five-minute hurricane that comes out of nowhere on a still day.
It was slightly blustery, and a strange roaring started as if a jet engine was firing up. I looked out to see rain going past the window horizontally, followed by bits of tree. The noise revved up a few gears as if we were about to have lift off and feeling that it might not be safe under the roof I took shelter in the doorway, remembering vaguely that it’s supposed to be the strongest part of the house. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that the doorway they mean is one that has a nice thick lintel in a load bearing wall, a door frame from Leroy Merlin in a plasterboard wall probably wouldn’t be of much use. Also that the advice refers to earthquakes, not when a tree might come through the roof.
A couple of minutes – at the most – later it was quiet and calm and the OH and I were swopping what went past the window stories and saying, ‘What the Hell was that?’ Then we noticed that half of the very useful lean-to at the back of the house had disappeared. Struts, uprights, roof…
…and not just its own roof, in wrenching free it had also taken chuncks out of the wall and roof of the old wine chai which we use as a washroom, central heating depot and general storage facility.
The roofer promised to come out asap to put up a tarpaulin over the hole – needless to say as this is south-west France asap meant the next morning. Luckily, it didn’t rain – much.
The roofer came while I was out and put up a small tarp over those two big holes, failing to notice that there were big cracks running up the roof. And cracks let in water – as we found out as soon as it started to pour. It took him another four days to come back with a very large tarp which he put over the cracks.
All well and good, except that as soon as it start to rain again we found out he’d arranged the new tarp so that in one place water sluiced down the wall and seeped in under an old door that used to be protected by the vanished lean-to. Worse, the new tarp was sending rainwater into a fold of the original small one which had been folded over for better cover. There was one place the fold sagged – inside the chai. The floor was already awash.
A dustbin was put under the torrent – it filled up completely within hours.
The roofer promised he’d be there on Friday. Then he said it would be Saturday, promise. Unblushingly he changed it to Monday, actually turned up on Tuesday, and listened to what I told him about the other leaks with a glazed expression saying a) you’re a woman, and b) you’re English so I’ve got every excuse for not listening, tied down the tarp, said there was nothing he could do about the water coming under the door and left in a hurry.
I set to waterproofing the door myself and did it eventually with a combination of a piece of old pool liner, a bag of bubble-wrap waiting to go the tip, several nails and a lot of swearing.
It started to rain again. I went in to load the machine and there was no water coming in under the door. But there was a stream of water coming down from the place where the tarp sagged. With rare foresight I hadn’t moved the bin and it was doing an admirable job.
I’ve had to learn to do a lot of things my mother would have thought thoroughly unsuitable for a nicely brought-up girl but up to now I’ve absolutely refused to do roofs or gutters. But the idea of spending another three or four days bailing out the bin and mopping the floor overcame craven terrors about ladders and accompanied by
unwanted advice helpful suggestions from the ladder holder who didn’t appreciate just how heavy a tarpaulin full of water is so you can’t “just empty it out”, (anyway, it’ll just fill up again, won’t it?) I tried out several ideas before eventually coming with a solution using some old bits of bamboo.
It’s hardly elegant and would probably have the roofer holding his sides with laughter but they’re rock solid, don’t move and they work. The sag has gone and I’ve got no idea where the rainwater caught in the fold is going, all I do know is that it doesn’t appear to be cascading down on my electrical appliances.
There’s also quite a nifty contraption outside for catching the water from the broken drainpipe which involves two dustbins, a sheet of corrugated iron, another bit of drainpipe, an old water bottle and two trainers. Believe me it works pretty well.
And just in case anyone thinks I’ve been exaggerating about our bit of Weather, the OH and I had been wondering what had happened to the roof of the lean-to. I found it about a week later.
And this is where it came from:
That’s the house at the top right and the lean-to was behind it.
Suggestions please on what we’re going to do now.
Great Scott, you have been hit badly, but hats off to you for your engineering and roofing skills. Just a slip of a girl, and look what you have accomplished. As you trudge about knee deep in water and mud, trying to drag the displaced roof back where it belongs, keep humming “La, lala lalalala, this is la vie en rose.”
I think we got off incredibly lightly – the lean-to roof, which measures about 5m x 3m and weighs heaven knows how much, was lifted by the wind over the roof of the house without removing the chimney or the satelite dishes, missed destroying the gloriette in the garden which we’ve only just had repaired last year and didn’t land on any cats. Though they were sensibly in the dry of course.
Helen Devries said:
Ye Gods! You should set up as an AE to do emergency damage limitation work – you’d have a stream of customers.
The barn roof and a quarter of the house roof came off in a typhoon in 1999….foot thick beams and all…coming to rest at the end of the veg garden. If we’d waited for a builder to do emergency repairs we’d have been waiting for ever, so it was tarpaulins, ropes and scaffolding poles and, as in your case, helpful advice from the ladder holder!
I’m not sure I could do scaffolding, my sense of balance is rubbish and I can fall off anything that isn’t at least a foot wide.
I have no useful suggestions to make. I can only say good for you for the damage limitation work you’ve been able to carry out. Every time the wind blows here I’m terrified it’s going to take the roof with it, although up till now my fears have been groundless (touching wood hard).
Why is it that we women have to put up with the (a) you’re a woman and (b) you’re not French? Quite often, we’re right. But of course they would never admit it…
Sally Ann Clegg said:
If you have access to bamboo poles you could build a teepee over your electrical appliances whilst waiting for the definitive repairs. I read somewhere that the shape makes a teepee resistant to tornados.
I’ll have to remember the teepee – judging by the narrow line of damage from cadillac to here I think it probably was a mini tornado we had. The only problem was that the appliances were getting wet from the bottom too with the water coming in under the door.
It isn’t just the French who are guilty of the ‘You’re a woman…’ I remember rowing with the AA when they wouldn’t come to tow the car when the electrics started cutting out with no warning. They said if it started it must be safe to drive. It took the OH pointing out that he’d hold them liable if I had an accident driving the 7 miles to the garage due to the steering going to get them to come…