We're getting a bit too much weather

CHARLES ROBERTS It's supposed to be reassuring. In weather forecaster-talk, anyhow. “We live in a micro-climate here”. In other words, we can expect an endless catalogue of weather patterns - but we miss the worst of whatever the Almighty sends us.


It's supposed to be reassuring. In weather forecaster-talk, anyhow. “We live in a micro-climate here”. In other words, we can expect an endless catalogue of weather patterns - but we miss the worst of whatever the Almighty sends us.

All correct, except for the last 10 words. Apart from the bacon-sizzling heat of a summer canicule, we've had raging winds, teeming rain for hours on end, destructive storms and terrifying thunder and lightning.

My old house has taken it like a Wagnerian Walküre. First, the long roof took an intensive wind hammering, which artfully rearranged the tiles. That the tiling was last adjusted only a couple of months ago no doubt gave the elements cause for extra satisfaction. Worse, the next morning the village roofer was instantly so busy that he couldn't come back to me for a month at least.

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Last week a storm of such violence hit us that rainwater scoured the roof for established holes, and widened them a bit more. Being geared to such matters, I and my good friend Guy responded with a scurry of bowls, buckets, pots and pans being stationed at every crucial dripping point.

It was then that an unexpected factor entered the tale. Rain poured in, like water under pressure seething under a door, at two first-time spots. Part of the deluge came directly over and around a large bookcase; the other a yard and a half or so down a wall carrying several of my favourite pictures.

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Among them was a “route marker” in my life: an enchanting watercolour by Norfolk-based artist Doreen Allen. Called Thornham Reed Beds, it is a study in tranquillity which I chose as my anniversary gift marking 25 years with the EDP.

Fortunately, no harm has been done, but it must be stripped, allowed to dry out naturally, and then reframed.

We worked on major mopping up until the early hours of the morning, thankful for the French habit of covering floors with tiles, thus much easier to clean and dry.

Two nights later there were symptoms of another storm, but it sounded far enough away to be ignored. At 9pm friends arrived from Paris. We were just settled around the table for supper when a downfall began a fresh onslaught.

It had its funny side. Without asking, our French guests went into fluent action as if they dealt with downfalls and leaky roofs every other day of the week. A quick check on the placement of buckets, and we were back to table as if nothing had happened.

I begin to wonder whether hoaxes and April 1-type practical jokes are not becoming an international coinage. The column last week was centred on an unexpected visitor to the River Vienne, who was spotted sunning himself on a sandbank - a yard and a half long crocodile.

It became a full-scale alert, from the Prefect (the highest administrative officer in each department of France) down to the local Gendarmerie. The crocodile was the least excited. Which was not surprising, as he was a perfectly recreated creature, made of plasticated rubber!

It was thus in France. It was much the same 600 miles northward in Norfolk, as I discovered on the EDP24 website. But this time the scenario was a very different one, with much to chuckle about.

On a hot Norfolk beach, we were told, a penguin was spotted standing proudly on the sea's edge. A photo was snapped by a holidaymaker. The snowball, if one can forgive the allusion, gathered sand from there!

Was it a penguin? According to the experts, probably not. Much more likely to have been a guillemot. Unfortunately, the GuilleBird was gone by the following day, so the true identity will probably never be known.

Do hope he makes it back home.

Meanwhile... an old friend, sent me a cutting which he knew would interest me. It was one of several subjects on which I wrote during my EDP days - historic buildings at risk.

In this instance, the article was dominated by a picture and story of the newly restored Nelson Monument at Yarmouth. It was crumbling and near to disaster when it was taken in hand more than 10 years ago by Michael Knights, project manager. It couldn't have gone into better care.

I frequently wrote on projects getting the Knights touch, and came to appreciate a man of real passion for his work, knowledgeable about the vast span of detail he daily deals with; and with the skill of an ambassador in popularising his subject.

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