The view from the scaffold

I went up the scaffolding today to paint the gutter and the upstairs window-frames. By the time you’re up two storeys on a scaffold, it feels like a very long way up; quite pleasant, once you get over seeing the ground between your feet, a strange little temporary world, gritty with stone-dust and bits of loose mortar. All the same, it gives me a new kind of respect for the blokes with the half-mast trousers you see dancing about fifty feet off the ground shouting louche remarks at young ladies –– I have to say, to me, two storeys felt like quite high enough. The guttering on the house is highly distinctive, not the usual half-cylinder, but a very fancy affair with a sort of ogee profile, made so as to look like a pediment from ground level. So decorative, indeed, that the Northern Professor says that the minute he noticed it he knew there’d be something wrong with it, because if it had worked, it would certainly have caught on. Briefly, it doesn’t work, and has caused us endless trouble: the Master Builder is lining the whole thing with lead which with any luck will do the trick. But while I was up there, I found a whole other use for guttering I hadn’t known about: chrysalises tucked away beneath the overhang, which was a bit sad, since it’s almost impossible to paint round them. Other than trying to rescue future butterflies, the enterprise went very well, of course, because I had adequate supervision: Miss Cat, who had hitherto ignored the entire enterprise, took the view that if I was up on the scaffold she needed to go up it too (she has got rather clever at ladders, and can even get down them by herself, which not many cats can do). Inevitably, she decided that a newly painted windowsill would be the better for dear little paw-prints and was duly shouted at. But after that, she got even more adventurous, and went up onto the main roof, from whence she mugged down at me, looking very pleased with herself. Cats have a distinctive way of exploring a new space, I was observing. Arrive. Sit down neatly, tail round the toes, and look at it all for a while. Little wash. Then, working out quite slowly from the original point, check it over for possibly menacing aspects and alternative routes. I watched her doing this for the three floors of the scaffolding one after another, and you could virtually see her creating a three-dimensional map of the safest way of leaving in a hurry. Cats have very small brains, considered in crude terms of cubic centimetres, but I’m often struck by the amount of practical use they get out of them.

One Response to “The view from the scaffold”

  1. pat Says:

    Ought Lady Novelists to be scrabbling about on scaffolding, with or without brown cat supervisors? Cheated posterity!! No Information. Et alia.

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