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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…

Feb 14 013…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.

Feb 14 008The 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.

Storm porn Feb 14 020It’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.

Storm porn Feb 14 013And this is where it came from:

Storm porn Feb 14 006That’s the house at the top right and the lean-to was behind it.

Suggestions please on what we’re going to do now.