Thursday, 6 January 2011

Preventative Measures

I’m staying in all day today.  There’s rain forecast, with snow later, but it’s nothing to do with the weather.  Well, not directly.
I may not have mentioned it previously, but we have rather an old house.  Bits of it, we believe, date back to the 1640s, though we have no proof as there was a fire at the church records office in the 1830s that destroyed the deeds.  Consequently, we have open fires and chimneys.  When it’s cold, there’s nothing quite so wonderful as sitting in front of the open fire and watching the flames.  Entire days can drift past unnoticed.  It doesn’t have to be a solitary pastime, even Verity has nearly missed a lunch or two after coming round for coffee and losing track of time as we allowed our minds to be absorbed by the destructive yet beautiful power of the flames.  Amazing what a chemical reaction can do!
Anyway, when the OH first tried to light a fire back in November, there was a lot of smoke that drifted into the house rather than up the chimney before he finally got it going, and I made a mental note to call the chimney sweep.  I do realise that the two events – the first fire of the winter, and having the chimney swept – should have been done the other way around, but that’s life.  After a second fire later in the week had left us both choking quietly, I actually got around to it and made an appointment.  Sadly, it was nearly ten days later, but at that time of year, I wasn’t surprised.  It seems I’m not the only person who doesn’t sensibly get her chimneys swept in September.
The sweep quickly discovered the cause of the smoky living room.  A rook or something similar had nested in the chimney earlier in the year and the nest was clogging the airway. As he pulled the armfuls of twigs out of the chimney, a brick was also dislodged.  Peering into the upper reaches of the chimney revealed sufficient damage to the brick work and potentially the beams that keep the upstairs separate from the downstairs of the house that the sweep recommended we line the chimney.  It was either that or risk setting fire to the beams and consequently the entire house next time we felt a bit chilly.
“Give your insurance company a ring.  They might cover the cost of it,” he cheerily suggested.  It had to be cheerily.  Isn’t it compulsory to be a cheery sweep ever since Mary Poppins and Chim-chim-cheree, which we always mispronounced as Chim-chim-cheery?
Well, it probably gave the bored call-centre staff a laugh.  Would you like to pay a relatively small sum of money for us to have our chimney lined so that later you might not have to pay to rebuild the entire house and for the contents to be replaced?  What would you say? 
The next phone call was to the bank.
Still, unable to sit in the living room with a cup of tea and a good book, the consolation is that I’ve been watching the traffic outside rather more than usual.  The house on the other side of Delyth’s is a hive of activity, with removal vans, estate agents, painters and decorators and more. The retired couple who live there were one of the £1 million winners in the Euromillions draw recently and they’ve decided to retire permanently to their villa in southern Italy.  They only moved here recently and spent nearly half the year in Italy anyway, so they won’t be a huge loss to the social life of the village.  More interesting, once they’ve finished moving all their stuff out and giving it to the British Heart Foundation, is who is going to move in.  There’s nothing like a new resident in a village to add to the amount of chat in the line at the post office.

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