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?