Have you ever noticed how so many tumbledown barns in France have posh new roofs?
You drive past a 16th-century ruin covered with ivy, glance up, and there on top is an impressive expanse of brick-red tiles, all nicely lined up and keeping the rain out of a building that is otherwise derelict.
Farmers could profit handsomely
These barn roofs are not corrugated iron, or even those red metal sheets that look a bit like tiles from a distance, but beautifully fitted using high quality roofing tiles. Not cheap by any means, especially when you consider their size.
The farmer next door told me it was down to European agricultural funding. His barns all have fantastic roofs on them, although these days they are mostly used as garages.
How nice for the barns, how nice for the farmers.
The postman says it is nicer than I know. The roofs will be very handy in the fullness of time.
Once planning permission is awarded for a change of use and the barn is sold to be converted, a new roof increases the value handsomely.
I still think that is fine. Having new roofs on barns, whether or not they are used, is great.
But what about houses?
Look up again at people’s homes and it is a different story – an awful lot are topped with a mish-mash of wonky tiles, moss and overflowing gutters, apparently because there are neither policies nor grants for re-fitting domestic roofs.
Those around us display all sorts of styles and materials. Increasingly, they are covered with shiny black solar panels, which are hideous, although I know they are eco-friendly.
But what is the use of having expensive tiles underneath when no one will ever see?
My point is, there is no policy governing the way these roofs look, either.
Green home grants are welcome
We all know there are grants for insulation, and amazing they are too.
Our house was insulated top and bottom via the €1 scheme, much to our amazement and joy.
I have been informed (at least a million times over the phone) that there are also grants to replace central heating boilers and to get windows and doors double-glazed.
The government wants us all to save energy and cut emissions, and to me it seems wonderful that it helps people achieve this.
But what about roofs? My neighbours’ roof leaks like the proverbial sieve and there is no help for them.
Perhaps I’m going a bit native here, or perhaps it is the effect of the election, but I am starting to think that if they are going to give out grants for beautiful new roofs on derelict old barns, the powers-that-be ought to be handing out cash to help waterproof homes that people actually live in.