Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Toast on the range

Oh, joy! It is time for toast on the range again! The last fly of summer is dead, the fly-catcher strips are burnt and the range re-lit. The temperatures may have dropped but the sun still shines – mostly. Young Angibaud came to sweep all the chimneys that were used last winter. He also peered up those that had remained unused – just in case Asiatic or local hornets had decided to build their winter quarters there.

This is not a joke. One winter we gaily lit the dining room fire-place, very little used, only to find that it belched smoke everywhere. A tentative poke upwards with the domestic chimney sweeping equipment dislodged the parts of some wasp or hornet nest. An urgent call to the professional sweep was made and he was only too glad to come and oblige - later. (We ate dinner in the kitchen.)

I forget now whether that was the same winter that we lit the dining room fire just before our dinner guests were due. The smell was awful. It seemed that our then cat, probably Ginger, used the ash as cat litter. I presume it was Ginger because he did the same when he went to live with Veronica and flatly refused to use the cat flap in winter, despite much training and persuasion. Nothing wrong with ashes, says the cat.

John took the (hated by me) Simplicity sit-upon plus trailer down to fairway two to collect fir-cones for use as fire lighters. Now we shall be able to dry them in the bottom oven and dispense with all other fire-lighters, especially those noxious to the atmosphere and our hands.

We can still look forward to roasting chestnuts on the hot-plate, the sheep have not eaten them all. It is a slightly dangerous activity as they have to be pressed against the hot plate with the insulating lids. Lift those up and one risks exploding nuts.

But this is a minor risk. What worries me is the 'expert' talk – in newspapers – about the coming winter. The consensus is that it will be one of the colder winters, direct from our friendly central Russian steppes. Will it be time for triple clothing layers after Christmas? Will we have to drain the water systems of the gites? Who knows – weather gods are notoriously disinclined to be predictable.

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