Updated: Oct 19, 2019
The rainclouds gather
It rained more than I could ever imagine it raining in a non-equatorial location. Even so, that would not warrant much more than a passing comment, were it not for the fact that the house had no roof at the time.
The roofers had been delayed, for no consistent or coherent reason, for three weeks. During this period the weather had been glorious. There was clearly a new clause in Sod’s Law that we hadn’t paid close enough attention to. As soon as the men turned up and stripped off the old roof, the weather turned.
Perhaps the rain seemed heavier due to the exposed new wooden rafters, the exposed furniture in the roofless attic, and the exposed black wiring that sat bunched up like a hole full of brooding snakes in the path of every river of water that flowed down the walls and beams.
Inadequate sheeting was nailed into place. The rain took this pathetic gesture as an insult and a challenge.
Rain soon finds its regular channels, down beams, along the seams of a chimney breast, and along the slope of a rafter or unfinished ceiling, until it reaches the rain equivalent of a waterfall. There were hundreds of these, and we didn’t have the tin cans, buckets and old bath tubs to cope with them all. After the fifth spectacular downpour, so violent that you could feel the house shake when you put your hands on a wall or windowsill, the tarpaulin gave in, and bathfuls of water sloshed down into the interior of the house.
We moved everything we could into the relatively dry bits of the building, reflecting on the wisdom of having no soft furnishings at this stage of the build. The dogs woofed and bit each other, thinking that the outdoors had decided that fair was fair and that it would come to them for a change, rather than always expecting them to come and find it.
The upside – lots of rain means lots of wild flowers in the local fields
Between downpours it was very quiet, the hammering of rain replaced by black redstarts calling in the apple tree, the depressing drip of rain in every room of the house, and the distant crack of thunder that promised more later. A lone white stork flew high overhead, wondering what had happened to the summer. And the weather forecast insisted that there would be six more days of this. Given that the interior sections of the new roof need to be put in place completely dry, the logistics of getting a roof on before the whole of this black-humoured folly of a building collapses was looking a bit challenging.
Spooked by the timber-shaking thunderclaps and all the noise and fuss from huddled workmen in the hallway, the dogs somehow managed to open the door from the living room to the hall and bolt through the inexplicably wide open front door. They were clearly not convinced that having the outside coming to visit them indoors was such a good idea after all. They bolted, hit the wall of rain, and retreated as if the film of them escaping had been rewound.
The dogs were hustled back to their damp corner, while the multiple buckets and tins of pouring rainwater spattered around the building like a recording of a Gents toilet after a drinking contest. The new chimney, not yet sealed in, had become a rather attractive water feature. The dogs drank heartily from indoor puddles. I played the guitar, with the stoicism of a captain on the deck of his sinking ship.
But then the roofers magicked up some better tarpaulin sheeting, and this time it covered the whole non-roof. Think of a row of five English terraced houses – that’s how much roof we’re talking about. When the next downpour came, the sheeting kept most of it out, and the roofers, high on coffee and acid rain, did the best they could.
In the end, their best was pretty good. The interior part of the roof was completed, and temporary tarmac sheets were nailed on top to make it all waterproof. It now feels we’re only a couple of disasters away from actually finishing this section of the build, more than a year after we moved in.
Not that we’re element proof. The top half of one side of the house, which had consisted of rotten wooden planks, is completely gone, and the new roof hangs frowning over the enormous hole. This extreme version of fresh air is not without its pluses, though. We were eating supper in the temporary (everything’s temporary) upstairs dining area one evening, when Theo said:
“There’s a bat”.
The Pipistrelle flitted over our heads, sounded out one of the bedrooms, and then nipped out again and back into the dusk. The dogs didn’t even notice.