A Story of Builders
Many of those houses are now falling down. In the case of our house, it's not subsidence that is causing the problem, but heave. Apparently a drain runs under the house (good idea, what?) and this had been broken by a tree root and the clay was getting sodden and swelling, thus splitting the house apart in the middle. Last autumn we reported our concern about the interesting cracks that were appearing all over the house, to the diocesan surveyor. After much head-shaking, a structural engineer was sent for. Howard is a romantic's idea of a structural engineer: flowing shoulder-length locks, and cowboy boots. More shaking of heads and sympathetic noises. Our home obviously had but a short time to live: it might be six months, it might be six days.
This was late November. Howard was clearly loving it: this was going to be the kind of problem that adds some spice to a structural engineer's weary days. How to get a 4 metre long concrete lintel made and installed above the long French window and adjoining windows. Even how to get it into the back garden in the first place (knock down a wall? hire a crane higher than the house? lower it from a helicopter?) was providing hours of amusement.
So I said, "I hope you won't come and do this work the week after Christmas. If you could wait till the New Year...?"
Today, they came to start the work.