Friday, March 13, 2009


The Vicarage looks normal for the first time since the second week in January, when it was enclosed with scaffolding for an inspection of problem guttering. It was all removed today, with the exception of a dozen or so planks and poles for which there was no room on the lorry. The gutter next to the entrance porch has spewed out rainwater where it shouldn't ever since we have been in residence. Long ladders and common sense are now out of the question due to Health and Safety regulation, so it had to be scaffolding. I'd love to see a cost comparison between scaffolding, and a remote controlled camera on a telescopic pole. After all, since the invention of fibre-optic cables and miniature cameras, we no longer send small people underground to check the integrity of sewers, so why not send them upside on the kind of telescopic pole used by modern window cleaners?

It turned out that several of the fascia boards needed replacement, and the guttering needed some adjustment to ensure the water actually could flow where it was meant to go. Given the leafiness of our salubrious domain, we also needed devices to prevent the gutters from getting dammed up and overflowing every autumn. When we lived in Switzerland the device in question was a simply cone made of wire mesh which fitted over the mouth of each drainpipe. No such device was available to fit into our gutters here, so eventually it was decided that all should be covered with rigid plastic netting to keep out the leaves. Replacing and painting the boards, plus netting the gutters has taken two months, not least due to the harsh weather conditions which have limited outside working.

During this time Clare and I have been nervous about the security implications of being surrounded by scaffolding, wondering if our household insurance would be compromised, even if we continue unfailingly to remember to lock windows and doors at night. It felt a bit like being under siege, until .... Until the neighbouring couple next door had a visit from burglars, and the lady living alone in her eighties also had visit from burglars the same evening. It was an unnerving shock to the inhabitants of our élite neighbourhood, and the chair of the Queen Anne Square Residents Association soon issued a security warning to all householders. As about a third of Square residents are in military officers' quarters, most of them moving on within a couple of years, it was a sensible thing to do. Three years ago, an army couple both had their new bikes nicked from the doorstep. They thought it was safe, to leave them unlocked. We never know who's watching us in such a prestigious place.

I had felt nervous about the scaffolding from the outset. But after the burglary, I revised my opinion. The houses broken into have no side gate. It's possible to sneak through to the rear and break in without the tell-tale gate creaking noises advertising one's presence. We have gates, although rusty and insecure, they are a visual deterrent. And really, when I think of it, you'd have to be an idiot to climb on scaffolding to attempt the forced entry of an inhabited house, due to the attendant noise and visibility from the road. I can imagine a rogue taking one look at the Vicarage and saying "Oh no, that's just too risky." So there was no need to have worried at all.

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