The answer was a ladder. I hate ladders. More than that, I hate stepping off ladders at the top - which is bad enough in itself - in the certain knowledge that I am going to have to get back onto the darn thing in reverse.
Nature has not equipped me with a reverse gear. I am great at driving a car, but as soon as I am asked to go backwards - to park, for instance - I start having trouble. Why would I want to go somewhere without actually turning round and facing the target? Why would anyone? Think of the chaos on a busy street, if everyone started doing it.
However, gravity being what it is, having got up here, I had to get down. It is possible that I now have the strongest grip of any woman in northern France, as a direct result of hanging on to the top of a ladder which was not fixed in any way, and stepping into the void.
The telephone was at the bottom of the ladder. I learnt how to hurry. I didn't always make it, but if it was you calling, I tried - I swear I tried.
It couldn't go on. He Who Does Everything Around Here built a staircase. It's not a proper one, in that I still have to go down in reverse; there is only so much floorspace and head height available, and the angle is steepish. But it has steps that a foot can fit on to and a hand can grasp. What more could I ask?
So I come up here, to my desk under the eaves, with a Velux window to my left, to write, and to think, and to pretend to do both whilst dozing quietly with a book open on my lap. The view is wonderful: defined by mist, it's possible to see the dips and rises between here and the far ridge of hills, with a high point marked by a single tall tree. When the light is right, I can see the glint of a tractor crossing and recrossing a distant field; and swallows and buzzards wheel and float overhead.
The top of the house is a very pleasant place to be, and so healthy: I've got two staircases between me and the cake tin. And I have made an important discovery: it is possible, with a certain amount of care, to manage a ladder and carry a glass of red at the same time - without spilling a drop, too.
There's progress for you.