My dear, dear readership.
Read on with trembling lips and a moistened eye, for your loving narrator could so easily be no longer of this world. Life is such a wondrous gift that it is simple to forget that slack-jawed Death lurks around every corner, waiting for us to plug in the toaster's frayed electrical cord or confuse the brake pedal with the accelerator. This week I survived, but I shudder to think how close I came to the Reaper's scythe.
It all started innocently enough. Our rental accommodation has had a few idiosyncracies in the past; the Leaking Bath, the Smell Of Rotting Flesh Under The Doormat and the Boiler That Spews Forth Noxious Gases While You Sleep. I never notice these things until The Sister delicately points them out to me, at which point testosterone roars through my bloodstream, I don a rough flannel shirt and wield an unidentified power-tool into battle. Or she calls the insurance company. Whatever.
So it was with the Buckling Tiles In The Bathroom and the associated Alarmingly Bubbled Wallpaper in the kitchen below. The cursory glance of my professional eye established that there was water leaking through the wall cavity, probably from the overflow pipe above the boiler. I twirled my moustache. The Sister was impressed. This was one I could handle on my own.
Step one was to get into the roof via the trapdoor in the hallway. The first time I ever did this – balanced atop a bucket on a stool upon a chair – it was, well, a bit embarrassing. There was a fair bit of floundering, some ungainly waggling of the legs and a general exposure of inadequacies in the bicep department. Since then I have gym-bunnied up and so swung into the roof with the graceful elegance of a greased-up leopard. It was so hot I wished I’d invited people round to watch.
Disappointingly once in the roof it became apparent that there was a brick wall between me and the suspected Origin Of Leakage. I of course knew that this was going to happen, but like all good investigative handymen thought it best to eliminate all possibilities. There was definitely no water in this completely unassociated part of the ceiling cavity. Excellent. Right. Next.
It turned out that we had a second roof access point, this one in the boiler cupboard in the bathroom. Yes, that’s right – the cupboard that is large enough to hold a centralised heating unit and approximately 2.5 gerbils, as long as once of them only eats ever second day and they all breath shallowly. Yes, the same cupboard I had to climb inside with my clutch of Small Space Phobias before slipping through a hatch originally designed for an employee recreation space in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.
Still, nothing is beyond a hardened DIYer such as myself, so with a bit of contortion I bent myself into the ceiling cavity. Inside this section the roof angled down sharply, creating a cosy triangular space that necessitated crawling. Crawling quickly became wriggling became dragging-my-dead-carcass-forward as I approached the suspected leak zone and the space narrowed. After such an ordeal it was therefore with some disappointment that I arrived at the spot above the Buckling Tiles, shone my torch around and found no evidence of damage, water or otherwise.
What my torch did land upon, however, was a protuberance lurking in the shadows behind an old chimney. In the unwavering light it appeared a sickly grey-yellow colour, measured a foot in height and width, with an oddly contoured convex surface. It appeared to have oozed onto to the brickwork and had a curiously organic appearance. It was also next to my head.
Now, it is a little known fact that most gay men are also secretly sci-fi geeks; we just hide it well beneath a veneer of glamour and camp tunes. Think The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Russel T Davies’ new Doctor Who and those slimming lycra outfits in Star Trek. Yours truly is no stranger to sci-fi geekdom, so upon confrontation with the Thing In The Roof my subconscious chose this selection of tidbits for my viewing pleasure:
The bit in Alien where the beslimed pod splits open and the juvenile spawn attaches itself to the unfortunate’s face, inserting a proboscis down his throat to implant a parasitic embryo.
Down my throat.
The bit in Arachnophobia where the unfortunate comes upon a huge, webbed egg sack in the roof of his barn that splits open and thousands of baby spiders spill out.
Thousands of spiders running over my face.
Thousands of spiders crawling into my mouth.
Spiders all over my body in a confined space where I can’t move to brush them off.
Spiders biting my flesh in a confined space with a parasitic spawn sucking my face where I can’t get out.
Can’t get out.
I’d like to say that my exit from the ceiling cavity was calm and dignified, that there was no backwards slithering or wimpering. I’d also like to be able to say that when the rational part of my brain stated “I’m sure it’s just some kind of expandable polyfiller – you should poke it to find out” I didn’t laugh scornfully. There’s a lot of things I wish I could say. Sometimes we stare Death in the face and simply find ourselves lacking.
So I have decided that the Buckling Tiles In The Bathroom and the Alarmingly Bubbled Wallpaper are, after all, a job for the insurance company. They can send a disposable employee around to investigate the problem while I sit patiently beside the entrance to the roof, quietly waiting with a Lemsip and a blowtorch.