Archive for December, 2013

The last couple of days

I went up to The Summer House last weekend to clear it of all the flood-drenched items – furniture, linen, bedding, books, chattel in general.

The trip up there was devastatingly beautiful. Sunshine, blue skies and a scattering of clouds – and birds as in the picture below.

20131216-172206.jpgWhen I arrived the neighbours were already busy, clearing their house of everything that had been in it. The sight of their house’s content piled up on the still-flooded lawn was rather abysmal and disheartening, but that is their stuff and I won’t show you what it looked like. One’s possessions tend to look rather shabby when drenched with fjord water and piled up on a flooded lawn – there were numerous cases of this up and down the road.

20131216-172217.jpgI had a carpenter come by on Saturday and another on Sunday to make an assessment of the damage and give an estimate of the works needed. The floors needed to go, so the first carpenter did some exploratory cuts to see what was underneath. Not surprisingly there was soaking wet insulation, another layer of wet wood and then a puddle on the ground underneath the floor.

20131216-172226.jpgThe main part of the house – the sitting room and the kitchen – is in the oldest structure of the house, and that’s basically a log cabin, only with very narrow logs, so it has been insulated externally with Styrofoam and an external wood cladding. The insulation and the cladding might have to go – apart from anything because Styrofoam is highly flammable – but the main structure remains healthy and with moderate moisture measurements, considering the circumstances. 2′ up the wall the moisture levels are at 25% relative humidity which is not far from what you’d find in a healthy unheated wooded cabin in winter.

20131216-172234.jpgIt was sad, though, to clear the house for all non-salvageable items. Like books… At the bottom of the pile to the left is a small collection of Astérix and Lucky Luke comics I bought while I lived in Paris. At the top to the left is the cookery book that my aunt gave me when I tuned 18 as a “get out of your parents’ home” present – hence the 10 months in Paris… And then there’s Mrs. Beeton on the lower right; I bought her myself, but I’ve loved her dearly.

20131216-172247.jpgAnd then there’s everything else. The entire “previously covered terrace” is full of furniture and other wet stuff, and then there’s a large pile on top of our double bed, standing in the watery lawn. And there’s another pile behind the house. It really does look like so much junk piled high, but when it was dry it was the trappings of a holiday home. Still, it is replaceable stuff, and for some absurd reason I’m thrilled that the dart board we’ve never used has died in the flood whereas out croquet set, Viking game and petanque boules have all survived.

So there. Much is lost, and to be frank I’ve had a rather miserable weekend emptying the house and the annex. And yes, it’s taking it’s toll on me, but I’m pulling through. The house is safe if I just stay cool and get things done. And I will get things done.

Tonight, though, I will enjoy the fact that there is nothing I can do right now. And I will indulge myself in a bout of misery and feel really sad about our poor little house that we love so much. It will survive, no matter what I have to do, but it has taken quite a beating and it can still make me cry now, nearly 1½ weeks after the flooding happened.

It might be just a house, but it’s MY house. And NOBODY  messes with my house! If I have to tear out the floor myself, I’ll do it. I will do whatever it takes. It hurts so much to see it like this, and the only comfort is that some day in spring I will go up there to spend a weekend in a lovely, healthy house. Even if I might have to camp out on the floor the first couple of weekends.

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I’ve somehow not really found the time to blog much this summer and autumn, but I wanted to share this with you guys. The Flâneur Gardener is still here, but the garden is in serious trouble.

We had a fairly bit storm at the end of October which knocked down three trees, but those trees were scheduled to be felled anyway, so we were just happy they fell the right way and didn’t hit the house. And everything else was more or less all right except a knocked-over fence by the entrance to the garden.

Then came Bodil. The storm in October, Allan, reached all-time record wind speeds for Denmark, but Bodil was almost as hard and whereas Allan lasted a few hours, Bodil lasted 24 hours and blew from a direction that forced lots and lots of water from the North Sea into the internal Danish waters, including Roskilde Fjord 200 yards from our holiday home and the Flâneur Garden.

Storm Surge December 2013Another three trees went down, but that’s not a problem. They, too, were scheduled to be felled. But this is a picture of Sunday morning, and the storm was on Thursday-Friday and the dike was surpassed on Friday evening. Sunday morning we had a good foot of water around the house, and deeper in other parts of the garden, but from the marks on the house it’s clear the water was 3-4′ around the house at it’s worst.

Storm Surge December 2013The garden has been flooded before, but a) that was rain water, b) that was before we installed the drain and c) it never reached the base of the house. This time, though, it’s sea water, and I’m dreading what the salt will do to the plants. Basically, everything I’ve planted over the past 3½ years is in danger. Everything I did since we bought the garden and I started this blog. It’s heart-wrenching, really. But regardless of the effect on the garden we can get it back in order somehow. Some day.

At least there will be very few killer slugs next year!

The house, though…

Sad gardenerI can start over with the garden even if nothing survives (and something WILL survive, I’m sure), but the house… I love that little wooden house; it’s the best place in the world to sit and do absolutely nothing. It’s taken quite a beating. There has been close to 2′ of water inside, the furniture is all over the place – and wet – and there’s a brown slush covering every surface the water reached. Heck, even the fridge keeled over…

Storm Surge December 2013Everything is wet. And the floor? It’s not a dark, exotic hardwood… It’s a very pale raw beech floor, but it’s covered in filth. (And that’s the fridge blocking the entrance to the kitchen.)

Storm Surge December 2013Everything is wet and dirty. And it will remain wet until they get the power supply for the area back up. Then I can start testing to see if the heating works and can help dry out the place, and then I can get some dehumidifiers in place and generally do some damage control.

The floor in the bedroom has already buckled beyond repair, so that needs to be changed. The floor in the sitting room is made of sturdier wood so it might survive – or it might buckle when it dries.

I literally cried when I entered the house and saw what it looked like. So much is beyond salvage, and so much is only potentially salvageable. I cried, then I climbed over the fridge into the kitchen, poured myself a rather-too-large 16-year-old whiskey (sorry, Flâneur Husband…) and downed it in one gulp. And then I picked up the photo of my great-grandmother that was lying on the floor, pulled myself together and started wrestling the photo album out of the bookcase where the books were almost glued together.

I never hurt a book. I love them. But it was a photo album created by friends for the Flâneur Husband when he was moving to Scotland just after we bought the summer house, and for it’s sake I literally tore up the books around it. A picture speaks more than a thousand words, right? Even if those words ARE from the pen of Edgar Alan Poe, Oscar Wilde et al.

Storm Surge December 2013The album was ruined, but the individual photos were, when I came back to Copenhagen and pealed apart the album, all right and just needed to dry out, and this is where under-floor heating comes in handy…

Storm Surge December 2013I filled the bathroom floor with photos four times, leaving each “batch” to dry for 20 minutes and then removing them to the floor of the library and dining room for final drying and it worked. They are all all right, though all are completely buckled. A new album will be made of them.

Oh, but the house. And the garden. And the roses. And the cute old arm chair that came with the house. And the beds. And the bed linen I bought in London in 2003 when I had just gotten dumped and thought that if I couldn’t sleep with a boyfriend at least I could sleep with a high thread-count. And the tweed blazer I wore in a blizzard on the Lake District Fells in England and on the fells around Nuuk in Greenland. And the T-shirt I used to look really hot in before I grew too old for that to be dignified and age-appropriate attire. And the compost heap. And the roses. And the perennials from my grandmother’s garden. And all the other stuff.

Even my kayak sank in the mix of storm and flooding.

Stor Surge December 2013(It’s the white stripe in the water…)

What you can’t see is that there was actually ice on the water, but a man has got to do what a man has got to do, and you can’t save a kayak without getting your hands wet. It has suffered no visible damage, which is great news as this was my wedding present from the Flâneur Husband. That makes it irreplaceable.

We are hoping – and actually believing – the house can be saved if we just turn the heating all the way up and get some dehumidifiers going. The annex might be more tricky; it’s harder to heat and it will be very hard to get the construction dry, and any way it’s an older construction than the main house and made of poorer wood. I will try, though. I will goddamnit do my best for every thing – living or material – on the plot.

Oh, yes… Small detail… The Flâneur Husband was offered a short-term assignment in Houston, so he moved to Texas on November 1st and will move home at the end of July 2014. He will be home for two weeks over Christmas, but other than that I’m on my own with this project. (Hence the frequent use of “I” in this post. I swear I’m not just being egocentric, but my husband simply hasn’t been to the house yet.

But… One book had been carelessly and messily left on top of a cupboard.

The Architecture of Happiness“The Architecture of Happiness” by Alain de Botton. (And yes, I put it there for the photo op…) It is, after all, a house of happiness, and we should – and DO – remember this.

I’m just so grateful that something like this has happened to our holiday home and not our regular home. Granted, it would take quite a surge to flood a 4th-floor apartment, but you know what I mean. So many people lost so much more.

Mind you, this is Denmark. Your regular house insurance won’t cover you in a force majeure situation like this, which is why there’s a government insurance scheme that everybody with a fire insurance on any building is covered by. People might have lost all their possesions, but at least they will get some sort of compensation so they won’t be destitute.

We, too, will get some sort of insurance pay-out to cover the damage. We won’t know how much for quite a while, but it will at least be quite a good help. And we can manage. This is a holiday home, after all, so we don’t need to find temporary housing or buy everything from scratch.


I just wish they would get the power back on up there so I could DO something. Without power I can’t turn on the heating, without heating I can’t dry anything, without drying anything the house and the stuff inside is just going to deteriorate. The power should be on tomorrow, though, so tomorrow after work I will travel 2 hours to get up there, battle to get the heating working and then travel 2 hours back, because the house won’t be fit for staying the night for a while.


All right, so I cried a little writing this post. It’s hard to see those photos. But I cry for two minutes and then the world moves on. And I move on with it, as is proper and fitting. It doesn’t ruin everything, but it IS a bloody nuisance.

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