I had to tune a piano in North Oxford so I kipped on the roof of the North Oxford Community Centre, which was an easy climb:
I like sleeping on a roof if I know it won’t rain at night. Thanks to modern technology I can be fairly certain from the weather forecast, which is very accurate for the first 24h ahead. If it does drizzle a bit, it doesn’t matter because my bivvy bag is waterproof and I can cover the face opening with my rain jacket.
So what’s my obsession with roofs? Well they’re high and dry, relatively clean, and best of all nobody will disturb me. I slept very well.
You shouldn’t climb on a roof, it’s dangerous. You should leave it to fully qualified homeless piano tuners.
The above photo is of our piano workshop in Oxford. No I didn’t climb onto that roof! I was just surprised to see so much scaffolding on the wall, when they were only going to patch a leak on the roof. When I enquired, I learned that health and safety regulations require that there be a hand rail along the edge of the roof when you’re fixing leaks, which you can see along the top of the photo.
A simple ladder would have gotten the workers up there. But the landlord had to pay for a scaffolding company to come up from Abingdon and cover our workshop in metal poles. If they kneel on the roof to fix it, they can still fall under the safety rail. But even more surprising is the fact that the other three edges of the roof were not required to have a handrail. The roofing specialists are much more likely to fall off those than the front, because the whole roof slopes down from the front at an angle of about 20Â°. Perhaps it’s just for show.
So why do I choose to climb onto a roof when there is a risk of falling? Firstly, I’m confident in my climbing abilities. Secondly, I consider there to be a greater risk when sleeping at ground level, of being kicked in the head by some idiot. Well, it has never happened, but then neither have I ever fallen off a roof. Even on a low roof, if I lie down, nobody can see me. Nobody knows that I’m there.
Although in some scenarios questionable, I think health and safety regulations are a great idea and have saved countless deaths and injuries since their imposition. But there were several comments in the press suggesting that I should find safer places to sleep. That’s easy to say when you live in a secure house!
I have no control over what other people might do to me if they see me sleeping at ground level. However I do have control over the risk of falling from a roof. I prefer the risk that I can control myself.
I would never want to put anyone else at risk, and I take great care not to damage anyone’s property, including their roofing materials. I never leave any rubbish, not even a sweet wrapper. The only risks I take are to my own health: please let me choose my own risks.
I’ve slept at ground level in many places over the last year and thankfully, I’ve been fine. So far the worst was having my shoes stolen and put in the bin while I slept. This only happened once and it was just a prank (although quite a mean prank for a homeless person in the Winter).
I do not advocate homelessness as a safe way of life. On the contrary, it carries many risks. Risks of assault, theft, injury, illness… risks that I’m prepared to take for a life of freedom. For what is better: being stuck in a rut paying rent and having no life, or taking a risk and taking control of my destiny? The rat race is not life for me. I’d rather take some risks and actually live.