28 May 2008

Arriving in a déluge

Yesterday evening we had a visit from BettyAnn, who comments frequently on this blog, and a friend of hers who lives in the Paris region. They drove down to Saint-Aignan to see some châteaux in the area and we invited them over for a pre-dinner apéritif.

It rained all day here, but BettyAnn’s friend Danielle told me they didn’t see much rain at all until they drove south toward Saint-Aignan after seeing the château at Chambord in the afteroon. By the time they arrived, we were having a major thunderstorm, with sharp lightning and loud claps of thunder.

A nice local apéritif wine

And rain was coming down in “ropes,” as they say in French. About 6:30, I drove down to the hotel where the two women are staying to meet them and let them follow me back to the house in their car. I got soaked just getting from the car to the hotel lobby and back to the car again.

In the hotel lobby, I met and talked to an English couple who were on a bike tour of the area. It was their first time in Saint-Aignan. As long bolts of lightning split the sky out over the wide part of the Cher River and rain beat against the window, I assured them that storms such as the one we were having only happened once a year or so, or even less. They were not convinced — I could see it in their eyes.

BettyAnn and Danielle followed me back to La Renaudière in their little green Renault. It’s only two miles. As we came up the road to the hamlet, however, we drove through what was almost a waterfall of rain pouring off the trees. The roadway itself was a torrent. I hope it didn’t wash out, since the storm continued for another couple of hours. I’ll have to go inspect it this morning.

We got to the house and ran into the downstairs entryway to the sound of a huge crash and a stream of exclamations (not to say swearing) from upstairs. What has happened, I yelled up the steps.

As I climbed up, I could see Walt in the back hall trying to get the attic hatch closed. It’s equipped with a ladder that drops down when you open it, and the thing seemed to have gone off its tracks (once again).

“Do we have another leak?” I asked, almost in a panic. The reason we just repainted our kitchen is that a year ago, in a similar thunderstorm, we had a major leak in the kitchen ceiling. The room needed freshening up anyway, and the water stains and peeling paint from the leak were the gouttes qui ont fait déborder le vase, as it were — the last straw.

“I saw a stream of water running under the eaves outside the way it did last year,” Walt said, “but so far I don’t see any sign of water on the kitchen ceiling.” He had gone into the attic to check it out, but found only a little dampness up there.

As he talked, he struggled to get the attic hatch closed using a long pole provided for that pupose. It has — had — a big round metal ring on it that you used to grab a hook on the hatch to pull it down and push it back up.
As he said “ceiling,” there was a big cracking sound as the metal ring on the end of the pole broke off. The wood split, actually, and the ring went flying.

And so did the broken wooden pole, hitting Walt square on the face on his upper lip right next to his nose.
He wasn’t bleeding but he was stunned. I guess he was lucky he didn’t lose an eye or suffer a broken nose. I told him to lie down for a minute and brought him a tissue. Not seeing blood reassured him and me, and he just rested for a few minutes.

The broken attic hatch

Our guests Cheryl, BettyAnn, and Danielle must have thought the house was falling down around them.
The rain continued and Walt got better as we all had a glass of wine to celebrate our meeting and Walt’s relatively unscathed status. His face didn’t swell up noticeably, and there was no bruise. He said it hurt, but I think the wine made it feel better.

As rain poured down, we had a nice couple of hours around the dining room table, getting to know each other.
The attic door was still gaping open with the ladder hanging down, and we weren’t able to fix it. It nearly blocks access to the bathroom, but you can just squeeze by and duck under it to get into the room because we propped the ladder up on a radiator. We’ll try to fix it — take it completely down — this morning. Luckily the weather is warm so if the attic door stays open for a while it won’t matter much.

Midway into our conversation, I heard the dog making strange noises downstairs. I got up to see what she was doing, and as I started down the stairs a little bird flew right into my face, with Callie in hot pursuit. The bird flew into the kitchen and landed on the counter in front of the microwave oven. By then, I called out “Bird in the house!” — it has happened before — and all five of us plus the dog were in the kitchen.

The poor bird, a rouge-gorge (the little European robin), was all aflutter and headed for the kitchen window, which of course was closed against the rain. At that point Callie jumped up and actually had the bird in her mouth for a second. Walt yelled at her to “Drop it!” and she did. Cheryl yelled “Don’t let the bird out before I can get my camera! I want a picture!” Cheryl is a bird-watcher.

Walt got the poor robin by one of its wings, slid open the window, and tossed the bird out. It flew off just fine, none the worse for the experience, I hope. Both Callie and Cheryl, who was running back into the kitchen camera in hand, were sorely disappointed.

When BettyAnn and Danielle left to go back to their hotel a few minutes later, the heavy rain had formed a big puddle just outside our front door. They had to jump over it to get to their car. I hope the little green Renault didn’t wash away in a torrent of rainwater as they drove down the hill to get back to town.


  1. I'm sorry for Walt. I hope he feels better today.

  2. Gee, what an eventful evening. I hope Walt isn't too badly hurt and that there is no serious damage to the house and surrounding roads.

  3. Wow - excitement plus in St Aignan !! Thank goodness Walt wasn't hurt too badly. Those attic hatches are quite dangerous I reckon - we had one like that in our previous London house, in exactly that position by the bathroom. I was convinced it was only fastened by the flimsiest of clips and would come crashing down on someone one day.

  4. Our sympathy to Walt. You guys have quite the exciting life. Your visitors probably thought that every day is like that chez vous.

    Did you know that kitty litter pans placed under attic leaks will keep your kitchen ceiling untainted even if rain does get through the roof? My Heloise moment of the day, just for you.

  5. Bet your guests never forget their visit. The next one will probably seem dull (time for some more wine, Walt).

  6. i hope walt's okay. if it rains it pours, hunh?

  7. I'm a friend of Betty Ann's and she told me about your blog recently! How fun to read about her visit "real time!"

    Hope Walt is OK!

  8. I'm ok! Just a sore lip and bruised pride. We dismantled that ladder thing on Wednesday morning. It will never hurt us again.

    But how will we get up to the attic?


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