Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Father Christmas, who he?

My roof, which is about 106 years old and covers my money pit of a house, isn't very well. It was held together by Joe down the road for many years, as he was always in need of beer money, and would keep an eye on all his neighbours' slates, alerting them when something had slipped or was threatening to blow away. As an ex-roofer, he was amazingly agile three storeys up, despite spending most of his days in the pub and a substantial belly, and would charge us just enough for a decent night out later on. Our part in the deal was to stand on the opposite side of the street gazing upwards while Joe explained at length, and in impenetrable Geordie dialect, his upper denture slipping dramatically, exactly what was wrong, what needed to be done, and how his ancient mother's health was. Somehow, updates on his aged mother seemed always to be part of the neighbourhood roofing mission. We trusted Joe, and obeyed, even though we could not always understand what we were being told.

But drink and knee problems got the better of him a while ago, and now his agility is limited to toiling breathlessly up and down the street to his local, and our collective roofs have suffered as a result. Other roofers (or imposters) came and went, but the recent wet weather has prompted urgent action as damp and discoloured patches have appeared in several places in my house.

Enter Billy. I had watched his impressive work on an ornate leaded porch in the next street, and had asked him to advise on the state of my own roof. I had to stalk him on several occasions before he made the promised call. Within seconds of looking up at the roof, and without needing to be told where the damp patches were, he had pinpointed exactly all the areas needing attention, and diagnosed nail sickness - that sounded serious and unpleasant, worse than a hangnail, really - and missing or holed flashing. He also identified rather accurately where there had been cowboy roofers. Billy looks old enough to be my dad, but he hopped out of my dormer window onto the slates with the nimbleness of a lad of 16, while my stomach clenched with anxiety at the thought of the 3-storey drop to the street below.

Then we stood on the opposite side of the street and gazed upwards in time-honoured fashion, while the intricacies of the problem and the solution were explained in detail. Nothing was said about an aged mother, which left me feeling slightly short-changed, but I think I might
now be able to sit a roofing theory exam successfully.

Final verdict: much work to be done, but thankfully preserving the old slates rather than a complete re-roofing job. Billy promises to make the roof weather-tight before the winter sets in. I must now think of ways to provide Christmas at next to no cost.

Next, the boiler's annual service. The boiler isn't quite as elderly as the roof, but it's not in the first flush of youth either. Watch this space.

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