Just as I was about to set off for this morning’s walk, an alarming drip, drip, dripping sound disturbed the living room peace. The light grey carpet then began to develop a spreading dark patch. Peering up at the ceiling we were able to discern globules of water. It was fairly obvious that this would be emanating from the flat above. But which was the flat above? I really didn’t know. I described the rabbit warren of buildings between Gerard Street and Horse and Dolphin Yard in my post of 17th October last year. That is fairly straightforward compared with Castle Malwood Lodge which has far more corridors and landings. Our bathroom, for example, is beneath the main staircase.
I found my way to number 9, which looked a likely prospect. Not even that was a certainty. Some time after I had rung the bell, the sound of a slight stirring came just in time to prevent me from turning away wondering what to do next. A muffled voice addressed me from within and we established that this was the correct flat. A small space then appeared between the door jamb and the knuckles of fingers holding the door. Above the fingers, roughly in the right place, was a bare shoulder; and above this a cheek containing an eye and topped by a section of turbaned towel. This was Chris. She undertook to go back and research the problem, which clearly must have been connected with her ablutions. I waited outside for at least five minutes, then rang again. Chris, now fully clad, had the confidence fully to emerge, and explained that there was an airlock in her system which, for the first time, had caused water to flood onto the floor. She would ring the agent. When I returned to our flat the problem had ceased. There was no harm done.
It is not generally known that, ever since Louisa’s bedroom floor in Newark was sanded, when she was in her teens, I have been something of an expert in dealing with leaking ceilings.
John Parlett, a plasterer who lived nearby, dramatically came to the rescue when water began to pour into our living room. I was in London at the time, but Jessica sought John’s help. What had happened was that the man who had sanded the floor had managed to slice into the radiator. This remained unnoticed long enough for it to damage the ceiling below. John grabbed a screwdriver, climbed a stepladder, and punctured a hole in the plaster. This enabled the water to pour straight into the bucket underneath rather than fill the cavity above. Had he not done this the ceiling would have come down.
It was fortunate for the staff and owners of Crocker’s Folly that I remembered this technique when they had their leak. Crocker’s Folly was a pub in Aberdeen Place, off Edgware Road in the Paddington area of London. It was a very grand building in decline. The ceiling was far more ornate than ours. Water was pouring into buckets that were constantly being replaced. I got a few Brownie points for the tip I gave them.
Thus was this disaster averted. Not so the very first one this rather doomed building witnessed. Crocker was a businessman who built the place as a luxury hotel intended to serve Marylebone Station which was about to be constructed. He had been unreliably informed that the station would be in that vicinity. When it was actually erected very near Baker Street instead, the poor man was ruined, and threw himself out of a top floor window. Someone else must have named it. In my most recent years in the area this establishment regularly changed hands. No-one made a go of it, and as far as I know, it remains boarded up.
After a salad lunch I walked the outline of a Sellotape dispenser: down to the pub, up to the church, down the footpath to the ford, and back via the phone box. Noticing two couples, not exactly dressed for mudlarking, walking through the gate to the footpath, I warned them of the conditions and guided them through to the ford. One of the gentleman asked me if I would care to lie across the mud for them to walk over.
Audrey was tying a yellow ribbon around what I took to be a fruit tree of some sort in her garden. She said she hadn’t got an old oak one so was using this instead. I thought it politic not to ask why.
Jackie has rigged up a birdfeeder and a wren box given to us by Michael; and created a protective, hopefully deer-proof cage for plants. I proudly brought Gladys round to see the work. She was genuinely thrilled. She told me that a wee dog was buried near Jackie’s bird station, so she might find some bones.
We are now off to Leatherhead to see Pat O’Connel’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Gondoliers’. Perhaps a fitting sequel to this morning’s drama. If there is any further excitement today, I will report on it tomorrow.