Goodbye 2004

Written by Piers Cawley on

What a week. Christmas was fab, as usual. We spent it at the Mill with mum, dad, Dougal, Liz and the kids. A smaller group than usual, but we all had a good time.

Then it all started to go a little bit wobbly. We don’t appear to have lost any friends to the tsunami, but I can’t say that makes the news reports any less shocking. Our disasters have all been on a smaller scale.

On Monday night, we set fire to the Newark house. We’d got in and it was cold, so we set a fire in the woodburning stove and were getting nice and warm and reading our Christmas presents when an ember dropped onto the hearth from rather higher than one would expect. On closer inspection, the huge oak beam that runs along the middle of the ceiling and holds up our bedroom was on fire. Five minutes later (literally) the fire brigade were shedding their boots to avoid tramping dirt into our carpets and inspecting the fire before putting it out with a hand held water sprayer then ripping the chimney soffit apart and looking everywhere with a heat detecting camera to make sure it was really out. It seems that, instead of lining the chimney as he was directed, our builder simply covered old (wooden!) soffit with flame resistant board and ran a short flue up into the space above it. So, when an ember went up the flue and came to rest on the end of the oak beam … well, you can guess the rest.

For bonus points, the part of the beam that burnt away, whilst small, amounted to half the width of the beam at the part where it was supposed to be resting on an RSJ. So that meant a late(ish) night phone call to mum and dad in search of an acroprop to support the beam until the insurance people could sort out a repair. They duly arrived half an hour later bearing a very lovely prop which proved to be about 6 inches too long. Bugger.

Luckily, the firemen had some acroprops but, for reasons which escaped everybody, they weren’t allowed to use them. Apparently it’s something to do with ‘Health and Safety’, which bemused Gill, a former Factory Inspector, who couldn’t think of anything in the regs backed this idea up. So, the firemen lent us an acroprop (it’s not like they would be using it in a hurry, what with not being allowed to) and we put it in place.

Right now, we’re waiting for the building company that our insurers use to get back to us. Hopefully this isn’t going to screw up the sale of the house, but I’m not betting against it.