Tuesday, 4 March 2008

My first winter in the house 5

Towards the end of my first stay in our Czech home the weather changed dramatically. The temperatures rose and the packed snow, which had held the house in a grip of icy iron, began suddenly to melt. As I sat in the house I would hear the occasional thump as a sheet of snow, like a chunk of a small glacier, slid off the roof and crashed down. But it was not thawing evenly, where the low winter sunlight did not reach it (as was the case at the back of the house) the snow remained as thick as ever.

I decided to check what was happening to the roof. In the barn the forces of the uneven thaw was causing real problems - the front slope of the roof was now free of snow, the back was weighed down and under the uneven pressure some roof timbers were gaping. It looked as though the situation had been made worse by the previous owners, who clearly had raided the barn for timbers and so some key uprights were missing. Worried I returned to the house and went up in to the loft. Here there was another problem, cack-handed guttering meant that the melting snow was flowing into the brickwork of the side wall. At this point my friendly local carpenter turned up and I in faltering German explained the problems. For the gutter he constructed a Heath-Robinson solution of old corrugated iron, which though hardly an architectural feature did the job. He also pointed out that the water had rotted a major supporting roof beam. In the stable he just said "Kaput!"

I had been planning to spend a couple of years camping in the house, saving up the money and getting to know the place, before I did any major work. The hard winter of 2005-2006 put paid to such well-laid plans. The old house needed work doing and she needed it doing as soon as possible. Like the old lady I imagined her to be, she was banging her stick on the floor and demanding my attention. But at the same time she was a charmer - despite everything that was wrong, in the five days I stayed there my love had deepened for the old place.

But my time in the house was up. I packed everything in to bags and put them in the attic. Then I sat drinking my last mug of tea, watching the dying sunlight reflected on the farmhouse across the valley and waiting my lift back to Cesky Krumlov and somewhere which had hot water and a toilet.

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