And this was on the verge of becoming a fraught day. I surveyed the footstool. It was more of a footstool cum stepladder - a metal frame with two steps and a plywood seat. The latter having a disconcertingly bowed and rotten appearance.
I gave it a few tentative prods. It wobbled. I slid it forward and back along the ridge until I found the most stable position. And then looked at it again. Wondering. Would it take my weight? And what other choice did I have? The metal frame seemed strong enough.
I carefully shifted my weight onto the first step, then even more carefully onto the seat. Leaning forward I was almost able to stretch a knee onto the lower tiles of the main roof. I was a few inches short. Three or four wasps behind me and I might have made it.
I tried several more attempts, hoping that, somehow, either my legs would grow longer or the roof would drop. Neither happened.
A braver person might have tried a small jump, flexed the knees and pushed off against the footstool. But that would have meant placing an extra strain on the plywood, which might have responded resiliently like a springboard or fallen apart and deposited me on the patio.
Imagination favoured the patio scenario.
It was then that I noticed the skylight. It was only a few feet away from my outstretched hand. Someone could catch hold of a section of pole from there and pull me up. Couldn't they? Wouldn't they?
The plan took an amount of selling.
But eventually Shelagh’s hand appeared from the depths of the skylight - somewhat reminiscent of the Lady of the Lake, I thought - and I waved a pole towards it.
Next minute I was half pulled, half crawling onto the lower section of the hip roof. Success.
I edged upwards towards the ridge, taking great care to spread my weight and not crack anything.
Once on the ridge it was easier, the tiles were larger and cemented in. And then I was over and off the ridge and heading down towards the chimney on the far side.
It wasn't too bad. If I didn't look down or scream. And the view was superb. I could almost enjoy this, I thought, for one wild moment of abandon.
I wedged my feet against the base of the chimney and started to assemble the brush. One by one, I attached each section and pushed them down the chimney. This was going very well.
And I couldn't hear any screams to stop from Shelagh - so either everything was all right or she'd been buried by a cave-in.
Suddenly the brush refused to descend any further. I didn't think I'd reached the fire so perhaps I'd found the obstruction? I started to work the brush back and forth, pushing, pulling, rotating ...
And then ...
Oh God! I hadn't, had I?
I withdrew the rods as quick as I could. Pulling the pole up hand over fist until ...
The last section of pole came up by itself. I'd unscrewed the brush. If the flue wasn't blocked before, it certainly was now.
(next instalment: The Radiator and the Chicken)