Monday, 17 June 2013

A Lesson in a Loft

The King and I spent most of the weekend in the roof. Not in a Shallow Grave kind of way. In a "Let's take up the boarding, remove the loft insulation, hack out the old floor and take it to the tip" kind of way. 

We wore protective suits and breathing masks, which did, after about five minutes, make me think how hard it must have been for all those wartime parents to ensure that their children put their gas masks on and did it properly. Wearing a breathing mask and working in a confined space at the top of the house is hot work, but it has at least proved to me I am not claustrophobic.

Plaster-boarding a ceiling  is convivial in comparison, even if each board does weigh 25kg (more than a third of my bodyweight). Removing lath and plastic with a reciprocating saw is less chatty work: more Grin and Bear it, and try not to bang your head on the rafters.

I have always known that you've got to have a system, but methodical is not exactly the King's middle name.

Once we got into the swing of things with said long-bladed saw and industrial hoover, however, we were able to make progress without needing to communicate much (ideal if you are talking through a mask in a noisy environment and your ears are full of soot). It is not the kind of job where you can stop for coffee. Despite our protective suits, gloves and hoods, we emerged from the loft completely blackened by decades' worth of soot deposits and plaster dust and, like Midas gone wrong, everything we touched turned to grime.

I learned a number of things during the two days we spent scrabbling around on chipboard covered with broken bits of plaster, shoving bits of nail-ridden wood into tough plastic sacks, and trying not to put our feet through the above-mentioned plaster-boarded ceiling:

One, it was the right time to do this project. I have never been so physically or emotionally strong as I am now, thirteen years into our marriage. 

Two, physical tiredness is beautiful in comparison to mental fatigue, and my muscles are doing well. 

Three, our little home is ninety years old this year - on the chimney I found the date "1923" in pencil, written there by one of  the chaps who built it. A man who, I imagine would have seen action in the First World War. A Yorkshireman, I expect, called Albert or Frank, someone who worked without power tools, with little safety gear, and no hot shower to wash away all the grime. I wondered who he had lost in the War, a brother, a friend? And he had come back and built our house. 


I touched the delicately-written numerals and said "thank you".

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