Melbourne, December 2, 2017

I am standing on the tiled roof of our home. The westerly wind is getting ready to blow a gale. There is rain on the way. (Or, as the media and Bureau Of Meteorology, have been saying, a ‘rain event’.)

I am on the edge of the roof, holding onto one branch while sawing another. But the horse has already bolted, so to speak. On the ground is a heavy roof tile, nudged and pushed by a branch that had had the wind behind it. A few minutes earlier, inside the house, Julie and I had heard a scrape and a thud while standing in the family room.

And now I’m up in the weather, grasping a saw (it may as well have been a straw) and looking at a hole in the roof.  I’m thinking rain, I’m thinking possums, I’m thinking Handyman, wherefore art thou?

Not up here, that’s for sure. This is not my forte. But there’s a rain event on the way. Gotta do something. I climb down, collect the (surprisingly unbroken) tile, climb up again. Try to fit it back into place. Harder than it looks. The tiles are bulky and awkward, I’m crouched on a 45 degree angle, and the wind is blowing.

I need another pair of hands. I need a shot of confidence. I need a roof tiler.

I do what I can. Cover the hole. But the tiles are not interlocking, not neat and precise.  Why is life like this? Why is life itself not neat and precise? My domestic inadequacy triggers a minor existential crisis. That sense of uselessness, of incompetency. It leaves me restless, a storm of its own kind.

The rain arrives and the roof survives but I am no better for it. The next day I’m surly, a little haunted by the view of life from the roof.  I get out of the house for a few hours. (What did Jackson Browne sing all those years ago: Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.) I go to the library. I know I should start reading a long, long novel but no books appeal to me. Hundreds of books and none say Take me, I’m yours.

So, as I’ve done before in times like these, I write a letter. Pen on paper. In the library.  Dear Paul, it begins, I am standing on the tiled roof of our home. The westerly wind is getting ready to blow a gale. There is rain on the way…

A few days later Paul replies with a poem,its ending slightly skewing my story. To give me hope, I think. He gives me a song too, and so much more.

Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.