We’ve just had a section of the barn roof redone. It’s a job we’d been putting off in the hopes that a military jet would fly a bit too low (they already fly so low over Creuse on some of their exercises that you can see the whites of their eyes) and clip it with its undercarriage, and thus we could get a new roof done at the expense of the Fifth Republic. However, and of course fortunately, that kept not happening so we organised a roofing company to come and do the job.

Photo: roof2

Or tried to. The roofer came round to take a look and give me a quote in January of last year, 2018. The written ‘devis’ arrived three weeks later, and though it made our eyes water, it was acceptable. I thus returned the signed devis with a cheque for a third of that money on 26 February.

Nothing happened, apart from the cheque being cashed on 26 June, just in time for the summer holidays. I’d left a message or two on the roofer’s answerphone during those four months but never heard back. We then got side-tracked for a couple of months with family and friends visits and our own little jaunt to Switzerland, not to mention much ferrying to and from train stations of our daughter who was trying to sorting out accommodation and unnecessary English language tests associated with the Master’s degree course in Holland that she’d be starting in September.

Once the children were all safely at their allotted places of study for the next year, I returned to chasing the roofer. More messages, one a week, and I finally heard back from him with a start date of the beginning of October. Not that surprisingly, the beginning of the month morphed into early then mid then late October, and no roofer. By mid November still no roofer, just promises that he’d be there soon and that we hadn’t been forgotten.

We gave up during December to make the most of the festive season, although I was quietly looking up how to best deal with reluctant artisans. I discovered that it’s accepted as the norm for there to be a delay of two to three months after your initial cheque is cashed before work begins, although on various forums I visited, many small business owners in the building profession said they wouldn’t even consider cashing the cheque until they actually started work. Our money had now been sitting in the roofer’s account for six months. So in the New Year I sent a recorded delivery letter asking for start and finish dates for the job in writing. I said that if I didn’t get these I would reluctantly have to start legal action to get our money back. The magic word is ‘dédeommagement’.

Two days later, on a Thursday afternoon, there was a loud rattling as a van pulling a trailer loaded down with scaffolding thunked and clunked its way down our drive. I so wished I’d sent that letter months ago.

The boss himself appeared the next day. He jovially remarked on my ‘impatience’. We clearly have different definitions of the word! I don’t think getting frustrated at having to wait eleven months for a job to be done, six months after paying for a good chunk of it, is really that unreasonable.

The three roofers set to. They started on the front of the barn, removing the old slates, replacing the old supporting woodwork with new, and then relaying all the reusable tiles and filling any shortfall with new slates. They worked a strip at a time, so not too much of the roof was completely removed at any one time.

Photo: roof5

They finished the front in less than a week and moved to the back of the barn. On the Friday afternoon, they were joined by a fourth builder, and they all got a bit carried away. They removed a huge section of slates, and left a vast area completely uncovered. Then they went home, without us realising what they’d done.

We’d realised quickly enough on Sunday when it poured with rain and we spent all day mopping up water from the floor of the utility/shower room that our angling clients use, which is in a corner of the barn. The main reason for getting the reroofing done was to protect this room. Rain had been leaking through the various holes left by missing slates.

So we were a bit grumpy when the men returned on Monday. We asked them to be sure to keep the open roof covered by a tarpaulin from now on. They had to beat a retreat on the Tuesday afternoon due to the heavy snow, but at least they’d put the tarpaulin up. However, they’d laid it over the tops of their piles of slates that were awaiting positioning. Thus it was very lumpy and bumpy, and not particularly firmly attached and, as we feared, the next Saturday night it gave up its unequal struggle to stay in place. So another Sunday of mopping floors. This time was worse as water got into the electrics and we thus lost power to the pig fence and the freezer. The piglets soon cottoned on to the former, and did some exploring. Worse still, a length of metal capping that goes on the roof ridge fell to the ground at the front of the barn, not at all long after I’d just been occupying that particular spot.

So there was another slightly grumpy Monday morning welcome for the roofers. (They’d been off since the Tuesday since the weather had been so bad.) However, encouraged, I suspect, by the forecast of Storm Gabriel’s strong winds for the next day, the roofers really cracked on and by evening they’d finished and packed away. They drove off with their little caravan-type trailer that had been their kitchen, a flatbed truck pulling a trailer of scaffolding, a big white van (naturally) with its own trailer of scaffolding, and a huge Manitou lifting machine. They’d left the keys in that one night, but we resisted temptation! We also resisted the temptation of climbing the scaffolding to admire the view from the top. Our barn is very big and that scaffolding was very high. We wisely stayed on the ground.

Photo: roof7

To be fair, apart from tarpaulin-related matters, the roofers did a super job and they worked hard. They put up with the cold and the wet, and us! And we now have a smart, weather-tight barn again.