Saturday, August 07, 2010

Char baby, let's call it a day

Hearth break by Pants

I now understand why the poor waifs who attended to cleaning duties in the great houses of Britain were called chars. Seat of Pants is hardly a stately manor but it does require great efforts on our part to keep the house functional. I say 'our' but it's actually down to me to sort our collective creature comfort. Barney is all paws and claws when it comes to anything practical and the Question Why is annoyingly inclined to revert to type to no useful end at the sight of a domestic dilemma.

A southern Australian winter is tough on us soft Londoners used to double glazing and cheap gas-fired central heating. Although we do have some oil heaters and a reverse-cycle air-con thingy, I much prefer to use the wood fire as it heats the whole house evenly and at predictable cost. Larrikin's End is in a forestry-managed part of the world so we are burning locally grown timber brought to us by admittedly dodgy geezers who don't charge very much and do their best to cheerfully stack the logs in the shed, however complex an operation that would appear to them to be.

The Pants hearth doth create a lovely warmth. Unfortunately, one has to have the skill and timing of a whole Royal Navy engine-room regiment to keep the fucking thing going. Happily, enough trees either die from neglect or get knocked down in storms to provide kindling for the year. I buy newspapers for two reasons. The other one is that I can't work out how to do sudoku online. I'm terrific at getting the fire going. But I'm always busy doing something else when the right time for another log rolls around.

The stove is perfectly located for heat distribution. It's on the ground floor, right in the middle of the house. The problem is, I'm usually on the upper floor. You can't see it from the photo but the flue extends up to the second floor and acts like a radiator. I only notice that the temperature is dropping when it's too late to just chuck another log in. That means I either sacrifice precious kindling to get it going again or reacquaint myself with the beaver lamb coat I bought at Camden Market in 1982 and only ever seriously wore in a Russian winter.

Maybe it's just me. I've never had to deal with a wood fire before. I've been in houses with open fireplaces that had carpet and soft furnishings that were unabashedly cream. I'm sure I have. And their owners didn't seem the least bit stressed. And the creaminess of their decor didn't seem the least bit compromised. It must be just me. My fire isn't even an open one but the soot just gets everywhere. I've cleaned it up for the picture. It took a great many minutes, I can tell you.

I was lucky that the previous owners of Seat of Pants left the fireplace implements as they didn't leave anything else. When I relinquished House of Pants London, I left my successor an entire folio of operating instructions for the flat including manuals for all the important appliances. How difficult can that be?

I've been established at Seat of Pants for nearly two years and the other day I found a light switch in the kitchen I hadn't discovered before. That could be an indicator of how much time I spend in my kitchen.

The soot, however, isn't as easy to ignore. I now understand the concept of spring cleaning and why our ancestors used to beat their rugs. Happily, my rugs are all machine washable. With your permission, I shall beat Barney instead.