Well you can’t say we weren’t warned. For some days the weather forecast application on Chris’ phone had been flagging up Tuesday and Wednesday with a nasty exclamation mark and warnings of wind and heavy rain. In fact on the Monday afternoon Jean-François and Chris walked around the buildings trying to spot potential problem areas before he departed to his now habitable house in the mediaeval pile that is Tourrettes-sur-Loup. So when the storm did break on Tuesday morning there were just Chris, Alison and Elisa, our student up at Courmettes.
We had rain, then cloud so low that you couldn’t see more than a few metres and then a howling gale. The cloud lifted at this point to reveal that the open marquee in front of the restaurant had collapsed, threatening to run its metal poles through a window. So amid more wind and increasingly heavy rain the three of us, feeling like sailors in some bad Napoleonic drama, managed to cut the heavy covering free and stow it.
And then about midday Tuesday, with the accompaniment of deafening thunder and lightning, it began to seriously rain. The problem with being halfway up a mountain is that the water on the upper half flows past you on its way down. We had a stream running past our door that, for the best part of a day, was several inches deep.
At this point, it would have been nice to have closed the door and waited for it all to go away, but of course the château decided to leak. By mid-afternoon we had twenty buckets in one room all filling at the sort of rate which if we had been a ship would have had us eyeing up the lifeboats. The leak was obviously coming in at the junction between the old château and the 1920s extension.
Eventually, we decided there was only one thing to do and armed with various plastic sheets, Chris climbed out onto the roof and draped the sheets over the most likely position of the leak and weighted them down with stones. You can probably fill in with your imagination what it is like to do that on a wet, sloping, tiled roof, three stories up above the stone courtyard in twilight with a full-scale thunderstorm going on. ‘Not nice’ is something of an understatement. Anyway, it apparently worked and leaks were reduced. Actually, the ribbed nature of French tiles gives them a much better grip in this respect than Welsh slates.
However on leaving the château we noticed that a spare staff apartment window was wide open (blown by the wind we think). As the apartment was locked and we had no key – it’s a long story – there was no option other than getting a ladder and climbing in through a window into an apartment awash with rainwater. More fun.
There were lots of other leaks – we bothered to list a dozen — including some on light switches. Groping for a light switch in the darkness and realising that it is wet is not one of life’s richer experiences.
By Wednesday morning the rain had eased off and we were able to see that the sheer volume of water had eroded the already badly damaged road outsides château. So the three of us spent a hour or so filling in some of the worst gullies.
Overall, Les Courmettes survived. But if you are a millionaire and you would like to contribute to the reroofing, replastering, repainting and re-tarmacing funds why not get in touch? (or the Walley’s four wheel drive fund?).
Proof by the way that winter has arrived emerged on our day off when we looked up the Var valley to see the following sight. It’s very nice: we just wish there wasn’t a rush to buy snow chains at the local car accessories warehouse.