08 September 2010


"It's like rain on your wedding day, it's a free ride when you've already paid...", go the lyrics of Ironic, the song by Canadian singer Alanis Morissette. And indeed, it was ironic that the day my new balcony was finally done, summer had ended.

The day also marked the end of a long and somewhat tedious affair. Back when I first visited my future apartment, I noted the poor state and stability of the old wooden structure that went for a balcony. From it, a spiral staircase led down towards the back yard, and if its daunting overhang did not instill vertigo, then the view of the rusty bolts loosely dangling from the brittle wood of the balcony floor surely sent shivers down any spine. Seeing panic flicker in my eyes, the landlord quickly reassured me that he had planned to completely renovate the balcony, and would do so very soon. I took his word for it, signed the lease and moved into the place in the middle of last summer.

By the time I'd gotten my place clean and furnished, summer had already passed and I had never even considered using my balcony. But while looking out over it onto the maple leaves slowly changing color, I made a mental note to purchase deck chairs in spring, so that I could take full advantage of my vantage point in 2010. By then, I reckoned, the balcony surely would be brand spanking new.

Fast forward through snow and ice, and here I was marvelling at the first blossoms on my maple trees. In the foreground, of course, was still the same old and wobbly deck, further weakened by another winter and covered in dirt and wood chippings. I'd spoken to my landlord again, who had come to inspect the entire installation with an expert. Much to his (and my) chagrin, it was determined that the entire, three-storey wooden framework supporting all balconies of the building, was just as unstable as the actual decks and that everything needed to be replaced. Great! And just as I returned from Ikea, with two deck chairs ready to be unpacked and assembled, I got the word that the building insurance company had now officially forbidden the use of balcony or fire stairs in their current state. For a moment there, I was envisioning myself escaping from a raging fire coming up through the front staircase, only to fall to death while descending in the back... I comforted myself with the knowledge that unlike the wooden balconies, the building itself was old enough to be build from solid brick and thus very unlikely to cath on anytime soon.

The renovation project had now gotten much bigger than expected, and the associated price tag probably curbed my landlord's enthusism quite a bit. Nothing much seemed to happen while the days got longer and warmer, and the repeated prodding from my side elicited little response. Eventually, I learned that a construction permit was pending with the city. Of course, the fonctionnaire in question was out of office for his summer holiday - HE probably had his balcony to relax on.

And then, early one Monday morning not long ago, I heard someone knocking, just as I was stepping out of the shower. Clad in a towel, I opened the door - but there was nobody there. More knocking followed, and I finally turned around to see a slightly bemused construction worker standing outside my balcony door, looking at a confused guy with a towel around his waist. With his colleagues, he was about to start demolishing my old balcony and was wondering why I had not cleared away all the (previous tenant's) junk on it. Never mind that I was unaware of the impending start of construction, and not allowed to step outside anyway.

So things were finally moving, and during yet another hot and sunny week, the guys were hard at work outside my bedroom window, completely rebuilding my balcony with new woodwork and properly reattaching the fire stairs. The following week, a new aluminium ceiling cover was mounted, and things definitely started looking up - just as days got shorter. Just before this Monday's Labour Day, inofficially considered the end of summer, the landlord resurfaced, carrying a bucket of protective paint to coat the wooden panels. At last, he boasted, my all-new balcony was ready for me. All I needed to do was waiting another 24 hours for the paint to dry, and then it would be all mine. I was given the go-ahead to get my deck chairs out.

How exciting! Except that minutes after the paint job was finished, a thunderstorm rolled in, the temperature dropped from 30 to 15 degrees, and the first leaves started falling from the trees. That much for summer. Isn't it ironic...

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