Monday 23 May 2011

Tactical retreat in the face of overwhelming force

Well, we're no longer in the Summer Palace. Of our twenty days there, it rained on nineteen and blew a gale on five. Last night, the BBC was forecasting gusts of 82 miles per hour - literally hurricane force.

By dawn it was obvious that I couldn't really depend on the roof surviving; even if it did, sheeting rain was falling and fine spray was blowing through the Summer Palace, making everything wet. The shipping forecast was more soberly predicting force ten, and the BBC's 6am domestic forecast had dropped it's prediction to only 70 mph. If I'd just been myself I'd probably have tried to hold out, but the idea of trying to catch the cats after the roof had gone didn't appeal, and I decided to abandon ship while I could. I started to make things as secure as I could.

Neadless to say I didn't have the cat's transport box down at the summer palace. Ivan, who'd slept cuddled in with me all night, was still under the downie, so I emptied the cooking box and unceremoniously bundled him into it. I wheelbarrowed him over the hill to the farm; at the top I could barely stand.

With Ivan in the car I took the transport box back. I was wearing my waterproof sailing jacket with the hood pulled right down as tight as it would go; I'd deliberately left my glasses off for fear they blow away. The rain on my face was like buckshot. Needless to say, the cat  box blew clean out of the barrow.

I'd expected Penny to be hard to catch, but she'd been sleeping in her usual place in the structure of the roof, which was by now moving quite a lot, and when I called to her she climbed up through the roof structure to where she could see me. She was distressed and clearly couldn't get down by herself, so I hauled her out and bundled her into the box. Then I took down the one wall I have at the palace because it was acting as a sail and clearly making matters worse, bundled my bedding into plastic bags and hauled all my furniture into the centre of the platform, covering it with a strongly lashed tarpaulin before leaving. The roof may go but I don't think the platform will.

We're staying with friends for a couple of days while the weather abates and I get stuff dry, but then we'll go back. But after this a more permanent structure becomes more urgent - it won't wait for autumn, or for planning permission.

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