Autumn Storm (April 1999) – Extract from Meditations in Orange

JGMontgomery 20 October 2014

In the meantime the clear skies have darkened and the wind is getting up. After extricating myself from the angry house owner I find myself tasked to roof repairs on a two storey pseudo gothic house. After putting on a harness and checking the belay lines, I climb up a ladder and onto the roof. The place is missing a large number of tiles and also has a huge number of cracked and smashed ones, making it quite dangerous to stand on. It is also incredibly slippery – almost as if someone has coated the tiles in a polish. Later I am to find that virtually every house in the street has the same sort of glazed tile roof and although slightly slippery when dry, they are like walking on ice when wet.

And before long it rains. Not drizzle or what you’d generally call a good soaking rain, but a sheeting, monsoonal downpour accompanied by wind gusts that are strong enough to knock you off your feet or blow you from the roof. Hanging by a safety line and an ascender attached to a rope slung over the ridge capping I feel extremely exposed. Not only that, all I can do is hang there getting wet and hoping that it soon stops.

Throughout the rest of the day we work in the changing conditions. The sun comes out and it becomes extremely humid and we sweat so much that it builds up inside our helmets then drips into our eyes or off our noses, temporarily blinding us with stinging pain. And then, in an instant it becomes quiet and still. The skies darken and the rain and wind comes. It is tiring work.

As a result, by late afternoon we are tired and wet, but even with hundreds of crews working all day there are still thousands of unattended jobs that await us. Thinking back, we never did get a chance to fix the house belonging to the abusive middle age man so I guess that the squeaky wheel doesn’t always necessarily get the grease.

That night we work well into the dark, using floodlights and generators to light the roofs where possible and torches where not. Thankfully the rains stop and the winds calm and we are able to finish a large number of jobs. By 10.30 pm we are exhausted and call it quits. However, if we think we are now headed for a hot shower, a meal and a few beers we are sadly mistaken.

Extract taken from Meditations in Orange by JG Montgomery (Pendragon Publishing & Design 2104).

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