Jen Taylor Friedman (hatam_soferet) wrote,
Jen Taylor Friedman

a cautionary tale of leaves and drains

We moved into our very own house this summer, as you may know.

This morning I woke up to an email from our tenant, who lives upstairs. She had woken up to a leak in her bathroom ceiling, which had pooled in the paint and was dripping through the light socket, and she inquired if I could do something about it today please.


We have a flat roof, which before today I had never actually been up on. One may deduce the existence of a roof drain, of course. I had been sort of meaning to buy a ladder and go up there to clean it of leaves, but what with one thing and another had not got to it. Instead, I had been hoping that it would all be okay.

This was not the best plan, of course.

So anyway, when Tenant said the roof was leaking, it was not too difficult to figure out why that was likely to be.

First, a ladder. We have a six-foot stepladder, but it's ten feet up and over the parapet. So, need to borrow a ladder. Next Door South definitely own a ladder, they have everything. They'd let me borrow it, although NDS do seem to view us as overgrown children (their kids are our age) and so it would come with a lot of advice about clearing one's drains regularly. So I wasn't too upset that they weren't home, as I haven't enough French to say "No shit, Sherlock, I do KNOW that, please can we skip the lecture."

Try Next Door North. The only member of NDN at home was the one who barely speaks any French or English (mostly Polish and has family members translate), but we managed to reach a state where she understood that I was in need of a very long ladder. Which she had, and she took me out back, we got it from under her porch, and we put the ladder over the fence into my garden rather than drag it through her nice clean house, and I went back round through the houses to pick it up and take it up to the roof access.

Okay. Ladder lugged up to top balcony. Wellies, coat, two pairs of trousers because my work jeans have huge holes in the seat and require an underlayer so as not to flash one's knickers all down the street. Work gloves, because clearing leaves is easier with gloves.

Where are the work gloves? Are they in the shed? Investigate shed. Shed is full of sleepy squirrels, who skitter off out. You would not have thought one shed could hold SO MANY SQUIRRELS, good grief. No gloves, though. Gloves eventually located in cardboard box in dining room. Obvious place really.

UD enlisted to hold ladder steady. Happily it has temporarily quit raining. Stuff leaf bag into pocket, climb up ladder, tremble tremble, slither over parapet, attain roof.

So this is our roof, eh? Hullo, roof! And there is a beautiful shimmering LAKE all across it. The lake reaches heights that ought not to be underwater, no wonder there's a leak. Also, there's a good inch of ice on that lake. Stomp stomp break ice, kick ice out of way, advance a step or two, stomp more, break more ice, kick ice out of way, repeat towards drain. Lake reaches top of wellies. Lake is cold.

Heave ice floes aside. Plunge hand into lake to clear drain. The drain has a wire cowl thing on top of it, thank goodness, but this has become clogged with leaves and twigs and pine needles. As was inevitable, of course. Push away leaves. Drain clears. Water roars down drain. Lake empties.

Lake continues to empty.

Uncomfortable awareness that that drain was not built to take that much water all at once. Hope it is not going anywhere expensive.

Final depths of lake gurgle down drain with mighty sucking sound as of bathwater much amplified. Thick sheets of ice remain. Also layer of leaves and crud. Kneeling on ice sheets, scrape up leaves and crud into bag. Work gloves soaked and freezing. Briefly consider sliding around for funsies. Conclude that sliding on ice on a membrane roof with a low parapet is even more stupid than not cleaning the leaves out of the drain.

Okay. A large bag of leaves and leaf-mould and other roofy things has been harvested. Drop it off roof. Startle longsuffering ladder-holder. Climb down ladder. Put ladder back over fence. Fetch chair with which to climb over fence, rather than disturb neighbour again. Climb onto chair. Chairleg sinks into mud. Give up on that idea. Instead, get over fence via tree. (Fence is too rickety to climb on.) Put ladder back.

Back over fence, back inside, find tenant's key, go to investigate leak. The latex paint on the ceiling has made rather a good water balloon. Go fetch stick with which to burst balloon. Balloon drains neatly into sink. Wait a bit; no new water seems to be appearing. Go back home, email tenant. Verbs all conjugated correctly and the accords all done with the proper gender and everything despite being cold and wet; this is UTTER HEROISM. Duty done (both as regards French and as regards tenant). Put kettle on.

Trousers soaked and filthy; time for dry clothes.

Down to bedroom for dry clothes.

Discover just where all that water went.

By the time I got down there the floodwaters had mostly receded (heaven knows whither), leaving a black and stinking swamp all over the floor. A wicker basket had floated across the room, but no baby Moses or dual collection of all known species within.

The roof drain shares with the drains for the shower, the sink, and the lavatory, all of which had apparently fountained extravagantly not only the water from Le Lac du Toit but also many other things which are to be found in drains. Fortunately it's all tile down there, but there was a basket of clean laundry and a shelf of summer clothes which aren't looking too happy.

We've got an information packet from the hospital, which lists a great many things neutropenic people shouldn't do. "Paddling around in sewer effluvia" isn't listed, oddly, but perhaps they expect you to extrapolate. So this is going to be on me.

Fetch mop and bucket. Attempt to mop up swamp. Bucket slowly fills with ooze, oily black and oddly adhesive, like the East River on a bad day.

After some time, hurl mop aside, muttering "Fuck the environment, I'm going to use paper towels."

Fetch paper towels. Scoop worst of solids up with paper towels. Resolutely interpret horrid brown smears as disintegrating leaves. Observe that the grouting between the tiles is filling up with slime. Realise this is going to need a scrubbing brush and bleach.

We are out of bleach and the scrubbing brush has gone AWOL. Also, there is no more milk, and there will be a need for tea after this. Brief interlude to go to shops: paper towels, bleach, scrubbing brush, milk. Delicious.

On knees scrubbing poo swamp out of grout with bleach.

Text classmate: 'Not coming to class. Drain emergency. Am literally covered in shit. Plz convey apologies.'

Back to scrubbing.

Crumpled paper towels now fill almost a whole laundry basket (laundry is now in washing machine).

UD had a long round of old-school chemotherapy yesterday, so he's exhausted. He went to sleep in the spare room right after I discovered the swamp. He slept for three hours. Funnily enough, that was just about the exact amount of time it took me to scrub and bleach every part of the swamp. As I was rinsing the laundry basket, the mop, and the doormat in the bathtub, he emerged. Seeing that I was still working, he made straight for the kettle, because he is a Good Man and realised I would need tea.

(Actually, the doormat needed scrubbing, because the dog had been sick on it yesterday. So that's a bonus.)

Timecheck: about four hours, from getting the email to putting away the rubber gloves. Then another hour having a hot bath.

It would have been a GREAT DEAL FASTER to clean the leaves off the roof to begin with.

This entry also appears at comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.

  • In which a New Type of Dragon is revealed

    The Book-dragon does not hoard gold, but rather books. They're rare, because the egg has to be incubated for a period of years, but as soon as it…

  • writhing shedmaggots

    Went to put in a half-hour excavating the squirrel-shit fuggable mountain of horror that lives in our shed. There's a shelf, about my eye level.…

  • ok someone give me a hebrew school please

    OK I kind of want to do an education series on the evolution of writing. First you do Ugaritic stuff in cuneiform in unbaked gingerbread (then you…

Comments for this post were disabled by the author