Fortunately, thanks to your firelighting tips, and in no small part to the efforts of the other half with an axe, chopping wood, we now have a blazing fire. And, if I lean forward and concentrate very hard, I can almost feel some warmth coming off it…
So, the Terror Centre – while backing off slightly from its earlier predictions of Armageddon, blizzards sweeping Britain, Hell freezing over etc – is still predicting lows of -2°C this evening, along with ice, rain and a chance of up to 10cm of snow overnight.
All of which makes it an extremely bad time for me to have accidentally turned off the Rayburn… which now has to stay off until it’s stone cold* and safe to relight.
Now then, about those fire lighting tips…
*Of course, in this weather, that may not actually take that long.
Townie that I am, I lack many necessary rural skills – sheep wrangling, chicken sexing, advanced gate-leaning – but the one that looms large at the moment is starting fires. No, not arson – remind me to tell you of the time I almost set fire to Ascot racecourse – but little domestic fires, the kind that keep you warm. My mother, who was a girl guide, made much of the fact that she had learned to start a fire with a single match, but all I can recall from my brief stint in the guides was making up rude words to the songs (they don’t give you a badge for that) and I can’t have been paying attention when they taught us this part, if indeed they did.
I’ve got all the theory. Newspaper to start, then sticks, then bigger sticks, then the logs, then all the poking about that makes having a fire so much fun and such an inefficient way to heat a room. And once I’ve got the newspaper going, the rest of it usually goes more or less as advertised, it’s lighting the newspaper that seems to be the hard part. This seems odd. I apply the lit match to the paper and after some luridly coloured flames (colour printing has a lot to answer for) it seems to lose heart and simply go out.
I’m beginning to think it’s the newspaper itself that’s at fault. It is, after all, the Guardian. Perhaps it’s not just metaphorically, but actually wringing wet - I’m sure the Telegraph takes a much more robust approach to starting fires. And the Daily Mail? No need for even the one match, I’m guessing. Just show it an illegal immigrant single mother on benefits and it will spontaneously combust then and there…
Any suggestions, folks? Petrol? Or change the newspaper reading habits of a lifetime?
Much excitment here – we had the chimney swept on Tuesday (by the world’s least contented – yet strangely cheerful – chimney sweep; motto ‘if I never sweep another chimney it will be too soon’). So last night, it being cold, we lit our first fire. I had forgotten what hours of entertainment an open fire provides what with having to prepare the grate, fetch the wood and other bits from the shed, find the firelighters, make all the little scrunched up newspaper balls, lay the fire, light it, watch it go out, blow on it, light it again, do the thing with holding the newspaper up in front of the fireplace to get it going, watch it go out again, take it apart and re lay it, light it, get it going properly this time, poke it, fiddle with it, almost put it out again rearranging it to make it look more aesthetic, add more wood to it, take some off again, and then, when it’s really going, just staring into it. Who needs the television with all that going on? It’s like having a new pet.
What I had also forgotten was that open fires don’t really give off all that much heat. I’d love a wood-burning stove, but it’s not really practical in a rented cottage. Still, it did enough to keep the heating off for one more evening, and that’s got to be worth something at least. And it proved, if nothing else, that I am easily amused.