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Rain gutters – by Justyna

4 Nov

I have been swallowing gigantic amounts of vitamin C and calcium of late. The doom and gloom is upon us. The Polish Golden Autumn (direct translation, thank you) is slowly drawing to an end, and the gray, wet and bleak is setting in. You wake up and it’s dark, you come home from work and it’s dark and the deciduous trees are slowly transforming into skeletons. And unless the fluffy snow comes, there will be five months of this. Yay for the Continent. Yay for seasonal changes. Bloody yay. If we were Sweden then our suicide rates would rise significantly. But we are not. Because we do get some sun light during the day. So no excuses. We just become a little more fluey, a little more stifled, a little more lazy and a lot more grumpy. If I wasn’t pregnant I would be looking forward to guzzling loads of red wine. It’s a romantic transition really, from the hot days of half liter cold beers, to voluptuous glasses of deep reds. On the upside scarf fashions are pretty cool. As is the possibility of wearing trendoid boots. This lasts about a second though. When you hit March and you’re still wearing the same freakin’ shin-high footwear, you get over the fashionista perk.

Gutters though, right. Rain gutters. So in Oz obviously when summer kicks in, vertigo-free house owners start clearing their rain  gutters to avoid possible bush fire nightmare scenarios. Kazek on our last visit to Sydney was a spectator of this behaviour. The protagonist, my quick and nimble cousin Kukuś, was on the roof of his Ashfield granny flat, clearing the gutters out. I was hoping for some spider action but none came. Also not sure what the actual fire hazard potential is like in suburban Ashfield, but Kukuś was wearing a black wife-beater and thongs to complete the quintessential Aussie feel, and both Kazek and I (as quasi tourists) were very satisfied.

Being late autumn in Poland, I have become somewhat nostalgic about rain gutters with this recent blog topic. Mainly because clearing out rain gutters from dead leaves and twigs is not a practice at all here. It’s not even an issue. Instead cleaning your gutters in winter is a whole different nerve wrecking experience I have come to expect as a Krakow local.

Negligence law in Poland states that each home/house/apartment building is responsible for clearing snow off their roof and chopping down icicles from rain gutters to avoid any possible accidents for bypassers and pedestrians. You are forced to rely on the civic responsibility of your neighbours to do the right thing, because let’s face it, the fines and pissy compensation pay-outs are hardly a deterrent. This is what a rain gutter with icicles looks like. A pretty quick way to the Gates of St Peter, yes?

In fact there are horror stories pretty much every winter. The one that stuck (ha!) in my mind was about the girl who was walking home from school and an icicle broke off and pierced her skull. Yes it did. And she died. Similarly when roofs are not cleared from the snow that weighs tonnes and tonnes, they cave in and people who happen to be inside also die. Or get really, really injured. In 2006 there was an International Postal Pigeon Exhibition (yes Beth, you heard right) in Katowice where the roof caved in because organisers failed to organise roof snow clearing teams, and some 65 people died. The initial layer of snow was not cleared, which later became wet in the plus temperatures, then it froze into solid ice when the minus temperatures hit again, then more snow fell to cover the first layer of ice, and hey presto we have a national tragedy. Maybe a little less dramatic than a raging bushfire, but a tragedy nonetheless.

So one can be somewhat skeptical about the onset of fluffy winter. It’s a death trap out there. Hooray for the gable roof I say.


Also I might get Kazek to wear his bike helmet once the icicles start forming.

Gutter by Karen

4 Nov

Oh dear, a late post this week and what’s worse is I’m really phoning it in. Here are some videos of my gutters. Some may say this is the most boring footage ever taken, in two parts. I prefer to think of it as “mesmerising”.

Part One

Part Two

We really do get rather a lot of rain in Singapore. Ironically, water availability is a major national security issue (small catchment area).

Hanoi gutters – by Tabitha

2 Nov

Unlike for Beth, “gutter” is a simple topic for me, as gutters are the epicentre of all life in Hanoi.

Vietnamese houses are usually very tall and skinny, to maximise capacity of the expensive land. But the weird thing is that despite this height, all the action happens around the very bottom of the houses, on the ground floor, and on the piece of footpath outside. I’m not sure if this is just habit, because their houses used only to be one storey, or because Vietnamese people prefer being as much on the street as possible, at all times. It’s a common sight to see Vietnamese families sitting on the floor eating dinner together just inside the doorway of their house, one metre away from the gutter.

You can also, of course, go one step further and eat while actually sitting in the gutter, at a street food stall, where the stools will elevate you approximately 15 centimetres from the detritus below.

Along with food consumption, the other favourite gutter-related pastime in Vietnam is potty-training. When a toddler needs to go to the toilet, Vietnamese parents and grandparents crouch down with them, holding their pantless child aloft above the gutter. They then make a “ssssssh, ssssssh, ssssssh” sound which is not like a gentle “shush” but a wee-encouraging sound of gushing water. If the child needs to do a poo, they lay down some newspaper in the gutter so they can pick it up afterwards. The poo will likely go into a rubbish bag that goes back in the gutter for collection by the garbos in the evening.

On our island, the gutters are of particular interest as they’re forever clogging up with the most indescribably revolting, pitch-black sludge. Almost daily our landlord gets out the front of our house with a big wooden stick and pokes around in the sludge, temporarily stemming the tide of grossness. Unlike in Australia, where they have those signs on the drains to discourage littering, saying how the gutter flows directly to the sea, I feel like our gutter needs a sign saying “Danger: Enormous fountain of faeces could erupt at any time”.

Mind in the gutter by Beth

1 Nov

This is the closest I’ve come to having to pass on a topic. Gutters in this part of the world are pretty boring and functional.

So, in the most tenuous link I could come up with – gutter = roof, I will tell you about our solar panels.

They took forever to be installed because in order to make them compliant our house needed to be re-wired, but now they are soaking up the (almost) summer sun. On a good day they produce almost as much power as we use (10 kilowatt hrs).

The whole solar industry went into a meltdown earlier this year when the new state govt took away some of the incentives, but it hasn’t effected us because we’re never going to make more than what we use. I think it will average out to about half of our power usage.

Every morning Jeff goes out and checks on what they made the day before and enters it into a website he’s made that graphs the energy output. It’s like a little pilgrimage of love every morning. The convertor thingy is fire engine red and very important looking. It’s a really good feeling to have them in finally, and now a sunny day makes me extra happy.

That is all.

P.S. here’s the graph.