No clout whatsoever

There are a couple of storms working their way across the UK at the moment. The first swept through yesterday and the second is due to arrive tomorrow morning. So we’re currently in a rather breezy limbo, trying to make sure that everything’s battened down tight in preparation for the hurricane-force winds to come. But thanks to Ozzy, my younger Labrador dog, we still have time for moments of levity.

It started yesterday evening, when my neighbour knocked on the door to let me know that the felt on my shed roof was ‘lifting off’ in the gusts and looked like it was about to make a permanent departure. I was in a bit of a rush at this point, having just walked the dogs and needing to drop off some hand sanitiser at my local school before racing back home (somewhat ironically) for an online meeting of the school’s governing body.

I’ve learned the hard way, though, that it’s best to take prompt action with such things, if only to reassure my neighbour that I am paying attention and that my DIY skills aren’t really that bad. (Sadly, they really are.) And so I grabbed a hammer and a ladder and headed off down the garden to investigate.

The felt on the whole downwind side of the shed roof was indeed ‘lifting’ off, presumably with the strong breeze creating an area of low pressure directly above the shed. As someone with a degree in physics, I found the mechanics of this rather fascinating.

But as someone in a hurry with a shed roof that was become less attached to the shed by the moment, time to observe this unexpected phenomenon was sadly in short supply. And so I clambered up to the roof, whacked the existing clout nails (the short ones with the big flat heads that you use for felt roofing) back in with the hammer, put both ladder and hammer away, and grabbed my car keys.

This was clearly only a temporary fix. And so, first thing this morning, I was back out with ladder, hammer and a fresh packet of clout nails left over from when we last replaced the roof of this particular shed. Thinking ahead, I snipped off the top of the plastic packet with a pair of scissors, folded over the open end and held it shut with a big yellow plastic clothes peg.

Molly, my older Labrador, watched carefully from the back doorway, unwilling to trade the relative warmth of the kitchen for the blustery and slightly rainy outside weather. Ozzy, the younger one, trotted happily alongside me as I wandered off down the garden, keen to see what was going on and to find some way to ‘help’.

Once I’d set up the ladder against the shed, I reopened the bag of nails and shoved a handful into the back pocket of my jeans (top tip: always remember to take them out again before sitting down). I then carefully resealed the bag, reattached the clothes peg, and set it down at the base of the ladder.

From the top of the ladder, I was able to whack in a few more clout nails to complement those that were already there. I couldn’t quite reach the far side, so slid out gently across the roof and, thinking very light thoughts, hammered in a couple more. Satisfied that nothing was going to come adrift anytime soon, other than possibly me, I eased my way back to the ladder and then down to the ground.

Mindful of my top tip earlier on, I removed the unused clout nails from my back pocket and reached down for the bag.

The bag was gone. As was Ozzy.

It seemed to me unlikely that these two facts were unconnected. And so I wandered off further down the garden, to see what Ozzy was up to. And it didn’t take long to find out.

Because as I rounded the corner of the greenhouse, there she was. Tail wagging. Eyes staring at me defiantly. And a big yellow plastic clothes peg in her mouth. The clout nail bag lay at her feet, empty. And there were tiny silver clout nails spread across the area of bark chip in front of her, where they had presumably landed as she shook the bag to free the clothes peg, her ultimate prize.

There are several lesson we can learn from this. Firstly, never leave a clothes peg unattended when Ozzy’s around. Secondly, picking 500g of tiny clout nails out of a pile of bark chip is good mindfulness practice and actually quite therapeutic. And finally, even when there are (quite literally) storm clouds on the horizon, one can still find the opportunity for a little fun. Especially if one is a Labrador.

UPDATE: I recounted this tale to my wife when she got home from work and her immediate response was to ask why I hadn’t used a magnet to pick up the little nails. Which demonstrates once again that she’s clearly the brains of the outfit and that I’m… well… not.

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