This "cut out and keep" style piece of engineering is an impromptu piece of protective work fashioned this afternoon after the drama of part of the ceiling coming down.
This is my office ceiling, and the central beam is encased in old plaster. For many months now I have been aware of a big crack, ever widening, in this plaster.
I showed it to the Area Buildings Surveyor. He stood on the desk and poked at it with his car keys. "Oh, yes, it's very dry and powdery in there. I'll get someone to look at it".
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Another Buildings Department person passed my way. "Come and look at this!" I implored. "I'm sure it's not safe".
Everyone I showed it to agreed it did not look safe. Most alarming, they concurred, especially given it's in my office, directly above where the volunteers sit to have their tea. Yet, bafflingly, at odds with the universally accepted truth that the alarmingly cracked beam was an accident in waiting, no builder appeared to repair or even shore it up.
Today the plaster came down at last, having, like me, given up waiting for a repairman. It lost the will to hang on and descended in a cloud of dust, plaster and bits of wood.
"Get out of there," yelled McColleague from the safety of Beyond the Door. "You mustn't breathe that stuff in. You might get anthrax!"
I thought she was joking. We went to the warden's shed to borrow some protective face masks. "Ah, in case of anthrax spores," nodded the Head Warden, sagely.
What? Anthrax? What? I was agog and aghast and immediately felt a bit chesty. But it's all true, old plaster can contain horsehair and, possibly, anthrax spores.
Oh well. We have hoovered it all up now and covered the hole with tyvek and tape to prevent more dust sifting down into the coffee and walnut cake. I am doing my bit to ward off anthrax with the liberal application of alcohol. Can't hurt, anyway. Cough.