School holidays and climbing the roof (but not the walls!)

A red and a blue door of adjacent terrace housesSchool holidays are, for me, a break in routine and a chance just to hang out. They're also a time to climb on the roof. I should point out that I didn't include that on my original school holiday plan.

The work-life juggle can become ever more acute when junior recipe testers are not at their regular places of educational attainment. Last week I fielded a call from my brother who needed assistance with his three junior recipe testers as he and my sister-in-law had a work roster crisis. Their juniors are not of educational institutional age... and all of their usual babysitting stand-ins were out.

Depositing one of my juniors at a friend's house, I packed up the other two and headed to the fabulous inner west to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful, petite, attached house. With five junior recipe testers. All boys.

The day, somewhat miraculously, proceeded without incident. That is, apart from the bleeding lip after a nasty collision with a broom handle, but we won't mention that. My sister-in-law arrived home and all was relatively calm. The youngest junior there present was tucked up soundly for his afternoon sleep, and the lip had mercifully stopped bleeding.

We packed our things, said our goodbyes, and all sneaked past the sleeping baby's room: some of us to hop in the car and go home, others of us to wave those departing. As six of us stood on the front doorstep, a powerful gust of wind blew. The front door slammed shut.

My sister-in-law's eyes bulged. "Oh," she said. "Um...," I helpfully added. All was not lost, however. "The back door is open," I said. "I'll go round."

"Except that the only way to the back door from here is over the roof."

"Oh. What about down the side of the house?"

At my house, the sides are about 3 feet from the fence. And you can walk down them. Easily. But this was the fabulous inner west. The sides of the house are either attached to another house, or approximately half an inch from the fence. Even on my thinnest days, there was just no way.

We dragged a wheelie bin as close to the roof as we could and, leaving my sister-in-law with four juniors to monitor, I climbed up. Perching atop the paling fence I managed to hoist myself onto the roof. Walking across the roof, away from the edge was relatively easy. It was the getting down again that caused a few problems.

In the courtyard at the back of the house, a retaining wall stood alongside the fence. When my brother has found need to complete this task (yes, apparently I'm not Robinson Crusoe) he simply lowered himself off the roof onto the retaining wall. "It's not that far to drop" assured my sister-in-law.

How far something is, or how high something is, is entirely a matter of opinion. I sat on the edge with my legs dangling over. I talked calmly to myself. I breathed deeply. I conjured every feline instinct I could muster (cats always land on their feet... even on the skinniest of ledges), but the fence, nor the top of the retaining wall got thicker or less far away. I panicked. In the distance I could hear a baby starting to cry.

I walked back across the roof. My eldest junior looked up, "Mum," he helpfully suggested, "You have to go the other way!"


"I can't jump down. It's too high."

There was another way. It involved walking the paling fence, holding (lightly) on to the gutters of the two houses who shared the fence. As I cruised past the neighbour's kitchen window I observed their dishes, clean, and sitting on the draining board.

I was grateful they had not chosen that moment to start the washing up.