It’s five years since we were last up there, and it shows. That roof of ours needs a good clean-up, just as much as any other part of the house, because if we don’t…. it leaks. You’d think that a good coat of grime and lichens, with a thick crust of moss nudging at the edges of the tiles would provide a nice impenetrable and insulating covering to help the roof in its task. But no. Rain soaks into the moss, and wiggles its way into the roof space and then our attic. It’s not managed to break through yet, but time is not on our side.
We have a routine. An early breakfast, so we can get as much done as we can before the sun gets too hot. By quarter to 8, we’ve rounded up old pointy knives, wire brushes, lengths of thick wire, softer brushes, knee pads, kneelers, a bottle of drink: and up we climb onto the roof, via our roof terrace.
We’re neither of us wild about heights, me especially. But it’s not quite as scary as it looks. The pitch of our roof is quite gentle, and we can move about more safely than you’d think, though at considerable damage to our knees. We try to divide the roof into work zones and fail. It’s easy to go off piste when one tile looks so much like another. But we both scrape and scratch and pry away at springy cushions of moss, yellow puddles of lichen, odd tile chippings.
A couple of hours on, one of us will say: ‘It’s getting hot. Had enough?’ Neither of us needs asking twice. We each sweep our section of roof carefully, round up our tools and put them away, ease our aching bodies into the shower….. and flop, fit for nothing much at all, at least until lunchtime. Malcolm at least is allowed this luxury. He’s 73, long past the age at which most roofers begin their careers.
We’ve had three sessions already. Might a fourth see the job done?