Skip to content

Job done

August 30, 2018

Okay, I know it’s been a week, but what can I say? Events, dear boy, events.

It’s been a while since there was any outdoor news, so let me share with you the story of “doing the roof”. This is a once-a-year job, usually done in August. It involves getting the ladder out and climbing onto the roof. (We once had an 18 foot ladder, but at some point while I was back in the UK it was stolen. The shyster contractor Mike had hired offered to pick up a replacement ladder. Unfortunately the replacement is only 16 foot, which makes climbing onto the roof hairier than it used to be.)

The first part of “doing the roof” involves carting a broom up and sweeping off all the pine needles that have accumulated since the previous summer. The second part involves taking a scraper to the moss on the tiles, then doing another sweep to get rid of the green lumps. The third part involves cleaning out the gutters. The fourth part involves cleaning all the skylights.

Somehow from one year to the next I manage to convince myself that this is a one-day job. Maybe it could be, if I started at 7am, but we all know I am not up at 7am, so it is definitely a two-day job.

I started it on Friday. For the first time ever, I remembered to take gloves up so I didn’t end up with hands full of blisters from the sweeping.  Pat on the back for me. It’s only been twenty years.

The moss production factory on the roof has slowed down considerably since I took down a few trees in 2012. Now the sun actually gets on most of it. There is one patch that’s still pretty bad, so I started off concentrating on that. I’ll just do this bit, I told myself. The rest isn’t that bad. But, as Mike an I learnt to our cost twenty years ago, this year’s moss can lead to next year’s leaking roof. The rest of the moss really wasn’t that bad. I could have ignored it. Except I couldn’t. Every bit had to be removed. So that was Friday afternoon used up.

Intending to do parts three and four the next day, I climbed down and made myself a gin and tonic.

The next morning when I woke up, I realised my toe was touching something wet on the bed. Damn. One of the cats must have puked on the sheet. I moved my foot, not quite ready to leap out of the bed to deal with cat vomit. Then two things happened almost simultaneously: the wetness moved over to my toe again (ah, not vomit, but a soaking wet Roxie) and I realised I could hear rain on the skylights. Rain! We’ve had a long, hot, dry summer and any other day I’d be thrilled to hear rain on the roof, but rain on the roof was not good for clearing gutters. I’d have to postpone parts three and four. Shame to leave a job half done, but it meant I could concentrate on writing an update. And just as I had that thought, the power went off.

Okay, I get the power going off in a windstorm. I understand the power going off when there is a heavy snowfall. But rain? What the hell?

I had a bowl of granola whilst waiting for the BC Hydro helpline to catch up with events on the ground. When I did ring, the recorded message informed me that they were aware of an outage in my area caused by a fire (!), that a crew would arrive at 5pm (it was 11am at the time) and that the power would be restored at three o’clock the following morning. What the fuck? I rang friends on the island to see if they had power. They did. According to the fire chief’s report on the Facebook community bulletin board, there’d been a grass fire which had somehow brought down a power line which had blown a transformer. My area of the island was the only one without power. Still, I couldn’t believe it was going to take thirteen hours to fix the problem.

All right, I thought, this is probably a good thing. The bad girls book club was meeting the following night and I was barely a quarter of the way through this month’s book. (Somehow my calculations about the next meeting had been out by a week, so I’d only started reading our book, The Immortal Life of Harriet Lacks, on Thursday.)  I did a bit of housework, then sat down in the reading chair with my book.

Here’s why power failures in the winter are not such a big deal: the woodstove is going. You can boil water for a cup of tea. You can cook a couple of eggs. Not so in the summer. Everything I could have eaten for lunch required either the toaster or the stove. I ate a couple of bananas (I was out of cereal bars), but by four o’clock I was very hungry. Okay, I thought, the road is open again, I’ll drive to the village and buy a roll or a croissant and make myself a sandwich. I was somewhat disappointed, driving past the scene of the outage, not to see a Hydro repair truck. Really? They really weren’t going to start work until 5pm? Shit. In the grocery store I discovered there wasn’t a single roll or a croissant to be had. Yes, there were bags of six rolls, but I’d be making a loaf of bread the next morning and didn’t need surplus roles. Instead I bought myself a cinnamon bun and a takeaway coffee. The coffee was awful and the bun was sickly sweet, but it filled me up. I went back to my book.

At 6pm I tried BC Hydro again. C’mon, I was thinking, it cannot possibly take that long. I was right. The updated estimate for restoring power was 2am, not 3am. Crap, as much as I was enjoying the book, I really did not want to have to sit in the chair all evening reading by the light of the battery lantern. And, of course, there was also the food problem. I rang another friend, explained my situation. She very kindly invited me over for dinner and a movie.

This time when I went past the Hydro trucks were onsite. Hurrah! They’d have it fixed in a couple of hours. (Wouldn’t they?) After dinner we checked to see what films were available on cable. Sadly not Black Panther, which I really wanted to see. Jean is a fan of superhero films and suggested Deadpool2. Fine, I said. It passed a couple of hours. Now it was 10pm. The power must be on. Jean asked if there was anyone I could call in the area. Probably, but 10pm was a bit late to ring people, wasn’t it? She got on her tablet, checked the Hydro site. Nope. Power was still out, estimate still 2am.

Drove home, past the Hydro trucks, to my dark house. Hung the lantern above the bed and got back to Henrietta. I finished the book at 1:30, went for a last pee, blew out the candle in the bathroom, got into bed, turned the lantern off. Just as I was about to drift off to sleep the lights and the radio came on. Turned them off. Went to sleep.

But what about the roof? I hear you ask. Patience.

No time to get back on the roof on Sunday – especially as I hadn’t set the alarm and didn’t wake up until noon. There were panto auditions at 2pm, a rehearsal for the September play at 4pm and Bad Girls at 7pm. The auditions were fine, although there are clearly problems with casting some key roles. (I am not the director this year, so this is not my problem.)  Rehearsal was great. The Bad Girls were a hoot.


This was a fascinating book. Skloot writes beautifully about Lacks (a poor black woman whose cancer cells have mystifyingly survived her by more than half a century), her family and about the science of tissue research. I would highly recommend it.

But what about the roof?

I got back on the roof on Monday. One of the reasons for doing this job in August is that the pine needles in the gutters are dry, which makes removing them a fairly quick job. Thanks to the rain on Saturday they were no longer dry, so it took a while to clear them. Then I got to part four: washing the skylights. This particular once-a-year job has to be done twice, because they are filthy. Then comes my absolute favourite part of the job: climbing down the ladder, coming inside, looking through the skylights and realising half the dirt and streaks are on the inside where I cannot reach them.

Still, as Howard* would say, job done.



* When I was working as a journalist in London many years ago, I had a mate named Howard. Over pints in a Covent Garden pub one day he complained about his name, said no fictional hero was ever called Howard. For that reason, in a first ever draft of a novel that would eventually become Rum Do, I chose the name Howard for my suave, urbane central character. Is Howard the hero of the novel? Some people think so. Unfortunately, by the time the novel was finally finished several years ago, I’d long since lost touch with my nonfictional mate of the same name. So he never knew. Shame.

  1. Irmani Smallwood permalink

    I really loved that book – bought it at Vancouver airport the visit before last and inhaled it on the way home, glad you liked it too!

    • Ha, ha. When I first read this I thought you were bigging up Rum Do and wondered how you were supposed to have bought it at Vancouver airport. Then I realised you were talking about Henrietta Lacks. Yes, it is a fabulous book. The Lacks family story is so moving and the fact that she makes the science so accessible is extraordinary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: