A Shocking Xmas

We were having such a quiet and relaxing Xmas day, – until the storm broke.

We have been enjoying warm, wet weather recently. Everything has been growing so well in the garden and orchards.
On Xmas Day all was quiet and relaxed and we were expecting rain in the afternoon, more or less as has been usual for some weeks now. Just a few showers, we thought.
The sky grew dark, like evening was approaching early, but it was only afternoon. Then the thunder came rolling in like distant artillery. The rain started and the wind picked up. We weren’t too worried, we have a safe, dry home. It’s been here for one hundred and twenty-one years now. We’ve been comfortable in it here for 38 of those years.
The rain increased to the point that it as blowing in horizontally with strong gusty winds driving it up against the walls even under the verandah. We stand and gape out the window and watch the water cascade over the gutters as it gushes off the roof and splash back out of the downpipes. I go around the house and pull out all the electrical plugs and disconnect the internet. We are laughing and joking until it gets worse and I remember that I have two pairs of leather boots on the verandah. I rush out quickly to pick them up and bring them in.
Just as I bend down to pick them up, there is an astounding BANG and crack with triple hissing flash and shudder. I’m thrown back against the door and for a moment I think that I can see the bones in my hand illuminated like an Xray against the flash as I reach for my shoes. I leap back inside bouncing and hopping from one leg to another. I’m not hurt, only shocked and surprised. I can’t stand still. I have to keep bouncing around the room. I think that I’m in shock. I’m not too sure, but I’m certainly surprised and amazed.
I don’t know what was hit by the lightning strike, but it sure must have been very close. The Lovely was in the loo at the time and heard it, felt it, and saw the flash through the window. She knows that it was too close for comfort. It scarred the shit out of her! Luckily, she was in the right place. Not to be de-turd myself. I go back out and finish clearing up the shoes.
We hug each other and comfort ourselves with each others presence. It’s then that I feel the splash of water on my head and shoulder. I’m not outside any more. I shouldn’t be getting wet inside here. I look up and see that there is a stream of water coming in through the ceiling and dribbling down onto the library bookshelves. There are some very nice old books in there. I rush to get towels and a chair to stand on and a plastic bucket to place on top of the book-case to catch it all. I have to move some sculptures and pots to make space for the bucket. We get everything under control and sit and wait to sit-out the storm. We end up getting 82 mm. in one hour.
In the morning we stroll around to view the damage. Nothing too bad. The pottery and kiln shed are all OK, but the power had been knocked out. As I walk up to the garden. I can see the shredded bark all over the driveway and front garden. I look up to see where it has come from and it’s then that I see the damage that the lightning has done to this huge old tree. It’s thoroughly dead and blown apart by the force of the strike. There is not a leaf left on it. The lightning has collected it at the tip of the highest branch and then the electricity has followed the grain of the wood down and around the tree in a spiral, following the twisting grain. Blowing off the bark and exposing a strip of the cambian all the way to the ground. The tremendous energy has vaporized the sap and blown off the immensely dense, tough and thickly matted and interwoven stringy bark, shredding it and blowing the fragments all over the front garden, as far as the neighbour’s fence.
This tree is a metre across at the base. It’ll be a winters load of fire wood in a year or two. However, there is a saying around here often quoted to me by the old blokes that used to be here when I arrived as a young novice to country living. They insisted that a tree that has been hit by lightning won’t burn as fire wood. I really don’t know. I can’t see any reason for it, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. I’m about to find out for real. I’m sceptical! Those old blokes also told me to go and buy a left-handed spanner and to ask the storeman for a long weight while I was there. I got the long weight alright, but not the spanner. Now I’ve got my own electrocuted tree. The truth is not too far away. All will be revealed!
As the sun begins to shine again. I get up on the roof and look for obvious holes, but there is no obvious gap in the roofing. What I can see are several places where the 120 year old roof screws are coming loose and allowing the overlapping sheets of corrugated iron to be slightly raised. That would be enough space to allow rain in, on a night like last night’s storm, with the pressure of the driving wind in behind it. I take out a lot of the old screws, any that seem to be at all loose. These are replaced by new, longer ’ Tek’ screws. I also finally get around to installing the last of the flashing at the edges where the two roofs more or less meet up, but don’t quite. This has been a difficult problem, that has been waiting for me to solve for some time. I make up some special galvanised steel flashing parts that are custom-made to close the tapered gap. I want to keep out possums, bush rats and also wind-blown embers from getting into the roof cavity and the eves during bush fires.
I get it all done in a couple of hours, before it rains again. I’m pleased. I feel good. It’s all done. This is a job that has been on my mind for a long time. I made up the sheets of special flashing two years ago, and they have been sitting in my workshop ever since then. Now the western side of the roof is finally finished. I must get back up there and do the more difficult and complicated Eastern side some time soon. But not until I unload and re-charge the ball mills again. Grinding media waits for no man.
I guess that this is what time off from normal work is all about. Allowing time for other things. All those other things that never got done during the past year (or two, or three…)
Yesterday I was glowing with electrical static, today with satisfaction.
fond regards
from Steve the Glowing Illuminated Manualscribe.