My plan for today was simple: take my Observer voucher to our little shop, exchange it for the paper, buy bacon, make breakfast and settle down to read the news. Thence to write about how lucky we are to live in a quiet part of a lovely city and happy to have plans to go away once schools are finally back. That’s if schools do go back and teachers are able to take up their posts safely. I’d want lots of assurances that I could wear a see-through mask and have a perspex screen from which to conduct lessons if I were contemplating teaching in my old classroom once more. Currently I feel very uncertain that teachers and pupils will be safe from covid. However I see plans for less movement around school buildings and shorter days are in place in some institutions. I see little detail about sanitising and mask-wearing, though.
With few thoughts other than a leisurely Sunday to look forward to I listened to BH with one of my favourite broadcasters and went downstairs to make tea, feed the cat and get Richard’s meds ready.
As I entered our breakfast room it looked as if our cat, Nelson, had torn apart two cushions and left the inards on the floor. I got closer and called him. The table cloth I’d put down was covered in grit and once inside the room the full horror of a fallen ceiling met my eyes. It wasn’t the cat’s fault. Some dodgy plasterboard, which had needed replacing for years rather than months, had collapsed. The carpet was covered in grey slabs which broke up even more as I handled them.
I’d planned to get to our shop soon after 10:00 am before Maya ran out of Observers but by 10:20 am I was still clearing, hoovering, trying to feed the cat in a clear area of 30cm square and making a pot of tea.
By 10:30 am I’d tidied enough such that the worst of the plaster board and insulation was in a huge plastic bag on the patio. I’d rung our builder who advised wearing a mask just in case fibres got to me. And the carpet was slightly damp. A leak! Water must have forced the flimsy plasterboard south.
This isn’t the first collapsed ceiling that I’ve dealt with. I’m reminded of a similar state of affairs, that equally took me by surprise, but that was almost forty years ago.
When Richard and I moved into our first house, about three weeks before we married, he was still teaching full time. And, although we’d moved house on the Friday he went back into school that evening to act as Judge Hathorne in the school production of ‘The Crucible’. I’d moved house, essentially, with friends. One loaded her very large estate car with much of our belongings. A van from Somerset arrived with my mother-in-law’s furniture, ( she was moving into a care home), lots of men friends helped me carry boxes and ‘white goods’ into the appropriate rooms and by the evening I felt settled.
Lo and behold, just as I felt a good day’s work had been had by all, I went into the bathroom and witnessed the ceiling light fall to the floor, as if in slow motion, followed by tons of insulation. We’d known the ceiling was dodgy and already had quotes from builders to get the work done. In time. Not the night of moving in.
Weeks before I’d rehearsed Richard’s lines with him, in our rented flat, surrounded by packing crates. I couldn’t wait to move to our own house with our own garden and kitchen. I didn’t bank on having a bathroom we couldn’t use...
And again, this morning, the same sight faced me. Plasterboard all over the show, albeit only a fraction of the total ceiling area.
We have our builder coming tomorrow. But, as I relax, finally, 12 hours after discovering the collapsed ceiling, I’ve put my feet up and am ready to peruse The Observer. It’s not been a relaxing day. After lunch I discovered even more plasterboard behind a glass-fronted cabinet and a drip, drip, drip from somewhere rather too close to electric sockets. This afternoon was spent emptying the cabinet, moving it, clearing up even more debris and cobbling together a meagre meal of roast duck. That was around 5:00pm.
My family thinks it’s best to get the work done rather than rely on house insurance pay outs, which can take an age to process. That will be a decision for tomorrow, by which time I will wake up and plan my day as if it’s a Sunday all over again. I feel I’ve lost a day today. As I draw the bedroom curtains and shut the windows I remember the optimism I felt when I opened them. I did not then know the state of our breakfast room floor, nor the work that lay ahead. And yet I still feel lucky.
News from India, Belarus, The Yemen, Beirut, Syria, our own unemployed and those fearing eviction is so much worse. Falling plasterboard is unlikely to be the worst thing endured by those people at this time. Our television, internet, lights, cooker, electricity, warm running water and safe, cold drinking water are still at hand. I count my blessings. Falling plasterboard is a set back, not a way of life, and it hasn’t, as yet, affected anything else in the house.
On Wednesday the weather looks fair. I shall enjoy it. And make up for today.
As you were...