A Grand Old Dame

A Grand Old Dame.

When the old man died, our bones trembled. The night he died, the wind howled menacingly, and the rain lashed relentlessly. Torrents of water surged through our exterior. The ceilings and floors puddled, and water dripped down the walls. The smell of the disturbed, dampened earth penetrated our soul. The storm on the promontory harassed and battered throughout the night, but this once stately house had with-stood many similar onslaughts and won. With our protector, the old man dead, we face a new fear – the fear brewed by bureaucrats.

We are battle weary. The scars cut deep in the brick foundations, and the gouges in our bruised weatherboards ache. The verandah posts lean and limp precariously. Will this be our final battle? Is the war lost?

Foundation worries that his rheumatic stricken knee joints will cease to have the strength to keep us upright, and we will collapse in a heap of rubble. Staircase bemoans his twisted spine, his contorted discs and sciatica troubling his hips. And I, Attic bearing the brunt of the storm’s temper – the brutal slaps and kicks and headbutting, lost a sheet of skin in its furry. The resident spiders weave tirelessly as if their flimsy silken threads can replace my lost skin and, thus, protect us against the elements. I don’t need a stethoscope to tell me we still have a pulse though the beat is weak.

Three town hall suits donned in protective helmets came nosing around the day after the storm, poking at our walls, picking at dry-rot in the window frames, scribbling on sheets of paper.

‘A safety hazard,’ said one, slapping a yellow sticker on the door.

‘Demolition,’ said another.

‘Development opportunity,’ said the third.

The girl from long ago arrived the following day and tore the sticker from the door. The girl, now a woman, flopped on my dampened floor. ‘Oh, what is to be done? Look at the state of this grand old lady. In the name of my grandfather, I simply won’t allow it.’ Our collective pulse quickened.

As a girl, the woman had filled our then sturdy walls with shrieks of laughter and merriment on her frequent visits. On one such visit, her quick action had saved us from a fire when an unattended lit gas ring caught a tea towel alight. Is she again, about to rescue us from the cruel clutches of death?

A crew of workmen came, peered beneath the floors, and shook their heads. They proceeded up the stairs, rattled the bannisters and shook their heads. They looked into the gloom of the Attic, looked at the sky through the gaping gap, and shook their heads.

‘What do you think?’ the woman asked.

‘No can do,’ said one.

‘Beyond repair,’ said another.

‘Best you hire a bulldozer,’ said the third.

The woman pleaded; she demanded. The workmen paused and tapped a calculator. The woman smiled and shook their hands.

The workmen returned today. Restoration has begun.

‘A grand old dame,’ said the woman.

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