St Paul’s Cathedral is Falling Down

‘Can you come quickly, we’re worried the Cathedral is falling down’. The voice was polite and trying to be calm but there was an edge to it and anyway it wasn’t every day that Ruth, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, rang you before breakfast. If the building that had defined London’s skyline since 1675 really was falling down, that was obviously a big deal.

Emily assured Ruth that she’d come straight away and rang off. She flopped back down onto the bed, looked into the distance and breathed out, blowing out her cheeks. She really didn’t need this today.

She pushed herself out of bed and hobbled slightly stiffly to the bathroom. She’d cycled a new longer route home yesterday to clear her head. That was what she’d needed at the time but now she was paying for it. She had a quick wash in front of the mirror. Her hair looked greasy and she spent a few seconds deciding if she should wash it. Ah well, today wasn’t the day, she’d just have to put it up.

She threw a few bits in her bag before she went to get breakfast. Most of what she needed was on her phone – camera, record drawings of St Paul’s and somewhere to take notes; but she grabbed some measuring equipment including a tape and also some gloves in case she needed to crawl about and get dirty.

The amazing breakfast she’d had planned with toast, salmon and some very ripe avocado’s would have to wait. Emily hated missing breakfast, she really loved her food, but now was not the time. She stopped to fill her water bottle and grabbed a banana and headed out of her apartment.

To save time she got a cab. Sitting in the back of the taxi her mind wandered. Ordinarily, she loved travelling through London and looking at all the buildings. Having seen how much effort went into making each of them just the way they were she found them fascinating to look at and think about. The shops with their glass fronts, high ceilings and spacious interiors sitting beneath blocks of apartments or offices. Lots of the buildings near where she lived appeared to be made of brick but as a structural engineer she knew that most building’s larger than a house probably had a structural engineer design a skeleton for them in steel or concrete. Even St Paul’s Cathedral, which looked like it was just built from stone, had a hidden steel skeleton within the dome to hold it up.

As the taxi approached the Cathedral she was starting to feel slightly nauseous. Not sick exactly just tense around her stomach, and a bit cold. She shivered. It was all just so unfair. The feeling that had been bubbling inside her finally came into focus. She shouldn’t even be here doing this, it should be her boss the eminent Dr Stanley Moss CEng RDI, FICE FIStructE FRSA FRIBA, the country’s one and only cathedral engineer.  But he was on holiday for two weeks, rafting down the Amazon and there was no way to contact him.

What if the Cathedral was falling down? She’d need to get everyone to evacuate and temporary propping installed as fast as possible. And then they’d want her to appear on the news. She’d have to look authoritative. She absentmindedly got out her eye make-up and started to apply it as the taxi swerved around the bendy streets avoiding the traffic. That was always a battle to appear authoritative. Everyone seemed to want their structural engineer to have grey hair and wrinkles…

To be continued…

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