Straw, reed and willow

August 25, 2010

I’ve had a stressful week with several work projects, compounded by issues for/with spouse, children and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes which have taken me away from the blog. I’m pleased to say that those problems which could be solved have been solved and those problems which cannot are at least stable. At the same time the thatcher arrived. For those who don’t know our house is a thatched cottage which sounds romantic but is also expensive to maintain. We’ve lived here for over twenty years now and have had to redo the ridge once, but we are now at the point when you have to re-thatch. You can see why if you look at the picture to the left which is three feet to the left of the fresh new thatch in the picture to the right.

Now you have to book thatchers a year in advance at least, if you want a good one. The difference between a good and bad thatcher can be ten years life for your roof. It’s also a real pleasure to watch them at work. It’s one of the fe remaining craft skills with ancient tools and materials. There is a real rhythm to the thatchers work as the bundles of wheat/reed mix are stacked and thumped into position and tied back with straw and secured with hand cut willow pegs. Conversations over coffee and tea with thatchers are also interesting. I’ve known a few over the years and they are generally reflective and narrative rich. Yesterday we talked about carpentry and thatching, the pleasure of working with materials. Today it was all about rugby (he was a fly half I was a number 7) both in the past and the present. Tomorrow I am off to Oxford University, but there will be as much wisdom on the scaffolding outside my house.

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