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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Friday, November 17, 2006

up on the roof

Heavy rains have returned. The GVRD has issued a "boil water" advisory: all tap-water, even for brushing teeth and washing dishes, should be boiled for one minute before use. Indeed, the water in the toilets is turbid; it's visibly cloudy even as it comes out of the tap.

Outside the rain has let up somewhat. I'm supposed to be joining my neighbor Ken in an expedition up to our roof to look for the source of a leak in one of the townhouses. It's not a thought I relish, especially after watching real-life trauma shows recently on TV, which mainly seem to have focused on falls. Two of them have been roof-falls from heights of about 20 feet. The injuries aren't nice, and always bring on fervent resolves--by the survivors--that they won't head up a roof again.

But as president of my strata corporation, it seems to be one of the tasks that falls to me. Falls.

Creative writing is still on hold while I work on my commercial assignment. There's always reading around the edges, though--something to do over coffee and tea each day. The only book that I'm currently reading that relates to my own novel is Persian Fire by Tom Holland. Even though he's dealing with events 450 years before my period, I find it valuable--anything to help get insight into the ancient mindset. Holland's cynical, gossipy writing style is fun and engaging, even if it arouses a bit of skepticism about his understanding of ancient characters, at least for this reader. His account of the battle of Marathon, though, which I just read last night, was stirring and effective.

Other reading I'm doing: Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks, a new account of exactly how the Iraq War got screwed up. It's another library book, so I've been reading it down here at the PC. It's also only a "14-day book", so I've got to take it back tomorrow (about 8 people have holds on it at the library), even though I've only made it 85 pages in so far.

It's later. I'm just back in from my roof inspection with Ken. We used two ladders, a long and a short, to gain access first to a resident's balcony, and second from there to the roof. Rain was falling lightly, and we took great care in climbing from the ladder over a short stretch of slippery cedar shingles to get to the flat asphalt-and-gravel inner part. There was a pool of accumulated rainwater around one roof-drain, where someone--maybe the roofer we sent up a couple of weeks ago to look into this problem--had created little dikes of pea-gravel to pen the water. Strange, we thought.

I kicked the gravel back flat and Ken took some digital photos. From the roof we could see the city skyline across the water: a blurry dark blue with bright pinkish-white sky beyond. The light was already fading from the day, clouds clinging and swirling like dark gunsmoke to the mountain above us.

There was no obvious point of entry for the water. My best guess is that there may be a rupture of some kind in the drainpipe itself below the level of the roof. We'll have to get someone in.

Now: tea and reading!

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