[#BlogTour] Excerpt: Accidental Damage by Alice May

Hey guys! How is everyone’s week going?  Today is my stop on the blog tour for Accidental Damage.

Chapter 3: Cob

Definition: an ancient construction material used for building since prehistoric times. Traditionally, English cob consists of clay-based subsoil mixed with sand, straw and water and trampled by oxen.

Two and a half years previously….

When you buy old properties you can expect them to be a teeny bit troublesome.

Our house was no exception. Young and naïve as we might have been when we bought it, we weren’t completely daft. We could see that work was required yet we could also see that the rather random conglomeration of structures that encompassed the sweet old cottage, presented us with the opportunity to build an idyllic life in the countryside for our growing band of marauding Barbarians.

There were plenty of bedrooms upstairs and a huge garden for prowling around, surrounded by fields and streams to explore. Loads of fresh air so the asthmatics would thrive, plus it was miles away from the hustle and bustle of main roads and big cities.

In effect, by living here, we could be said to be protecting both the Barbarians and society, at the same time. 

The house consisted of a motley selection of extensions of indeterminate age around a central cob cottage. The original structure had been present on the site for at least 350 years, but had been altered to a sufficiently unrecognisable degree that the local planners were not skipping round it trying to put it on one of their lists of historical significance.

 This was a good thing as it meant that we would be able to get planning permission to make some alterations. Nevertheless we still had National Park (NP), Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and River Corridor designations to contend with so no changes were going to be particularly straight forward. (We wouldn’t want straight forward would we, that would make life far too boring wouldn’t it?)

Over the next ten years we slowly spruced up bits of the cottage as our finances allowed, but the original section remained much as we had found it. Lovely thick, solid walls, warm in winter and cool in summer. There was a charmingly rickety staircase that would never pass building regulations these days and a huge open fireplace with old foot and hand holds leading up the inside of the vast chimney stack. (No we never sent any of the Barbarians up it, even though it was very tempting to save on the chimney sweep bills!) The whole thing was topped off with a very pretty thatched roof.

We had been assured by the detailed structural survey that it was all completely sound and thus no concerns were raised. The general consensus from all consulted was that it had stood for 350 years already it would stand for 350 more.

So you can understand my total incomprehension as I stood on the driveway one July day and watched as two massive jagged cracks tore their way up the walls of my home from ground level right up to pretty thatched roof and a section of cob started to move very slowly away from the rest of the house.

“How peculiar!” I remember thinking, as my Friendly Local Builder and his mate, who had fortuitously popped by at that exact moment to pick up some previously forgotten equipment, frantically swung into action.

An amazing co-incidence it is true, but there they were, builders, just when I needed them the most. How often does that happen? Perhaps someone was smiling on me from on high that day, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Experienced in construction work as these builders were, they were able to size up what was going on in lightening quick time. So while I was staring in incomprehension, my companions were hastily trying to erect some props that they happened to have in the back of their truck, in order to prevent the wall collapsing completely.

Standing rooted to the spot I could not believe my eyes. This couldn’t possibly be happening!

Yet it clearly was. That second 350 years was rather demonstrably off the cards now. In fact the house looked as though it had got rather tired and had a little sit down. I didn’t really blame it. I was feeling rather faint myself.

 My mobile warbled and I answered it on automatic pilot.

“You alright?” chirped my blissfully unaware Beloved Husband.

 “We have a slight problem,” I croaked out.


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