The sound of rain tapping on an upturned metal bucket, like dim low distant church bell’s chimes blown irregularly to the ear on the wind. A creaking and tapping in the eaves. Drips and streams at the door. A dead fly on its back caught by the web in the corner of a window pane. A bird sheltering from the rain on the hatted, vented chimney. Down the blackened circle to hit the cold acoustics of the tiled room comes first a comic two note plaint, then a pure bird note. The tiles ring with the sound.
The grass silently catches the unrelenting rain, and palpably turns greener. Wheat soaks and grows, bulges. The trees shiver, the branches of the avenues pull together, clamouring as the wet falls harder, then stretch out, shaking off the rain. Soon the foliage is lost again beneath a very fine silking of grey-white. The church bells come nearer, and for a moment there is the taut sound of a drum.
The army green sleeping bag is coffin-shaped. The water rises quietly through the tiles, and you fear the flood of despair, the long eternity of its forty days and nights, the damp ache of bones that live only for the sun which feeds, clothes and dries them.
The rain keeps up for a week. You feel a little like Poe’s Fortunato when first he realises he is to be bricked up in the catacombs trickling with moisture. You spend whole days cleaning and cobwebbing each of the three rooms, but the mixture of dust and damp remains. The wet seems either to rise up through the tiles or descend upon them as if they are sweating in the humidity. You may as well be living in nitre-encrusted vaults or back taking photographs in one of the dark and dripping pump rooms behind the Underground’s well-lit façade. The novel you have with you is extensively informative about the hero’s tubercular antecedents; you cannot help remembering that the writer himself died of pneumonia. Cooking steams up the room a little more; the food tastes watery. Your sleeping bag issues damp against your skin when you retreat to it mid-way through the evening, and your clothes are damp when you put them on in the morning. In what was the kitchen, an ever larger puddle is forming directly under the largest hole in the roof. You fetch in the bucket and try not to anticipate the next drip when lying inert on the sun bed two rooms away.
The only trips outside you make each day are to catch the early morning visit of the bread van, and to the Drouet’s outside toilet. Other than that, twice a day you dash along the side of the cottage to the outside tap, keeping as much of yourself as possible under the overhang of the thatch; unfortunately the tap itself is exposed, and here your efforts to remain dry come to nothing. You feel puppeteered, tested, hard-done by: the bottle the one wetness that warms you.