Mildly irritated, I asked JP to light an evening fire in the sitting room to fight off the sensation and smell of damp. It worked. The room was pleasantly dry, the fire made nice noises, an elegant pyramid of wavering flames. The following morning there was a little glow of warmth from the hearth. And it did not rain all day. But, the next day - sporadic downpours came again!
Truly cross, I decided to prepare my fiercest weapon against the cantankerous, contrary weather gods. I decided to light the wood-fired Rayburn. Foolishly I thought it would require just a perfunctory service, a raking out of the ashes and dust. Then I opened the flue cover...there, gleaming at me, was a pile of soot flakes, black as jet, going up the flue I knew not how high. A gentle slapping of the flue pipe was followed by the sound of a shower of soot.
Old Woman's best Weapon against Weather Gods
It started raining outside. Inside, I rolled up my sleeves, leaned over the Rayburn, embraced the flue pipe and removed its base cap. The bucket standing ready below was immediately filled with the offending soot. A couple of firm slaps to the flue pipe and more soot rattled down.
I fetched my trusty Nilfisk and vacuumed inside the flue, the gap between the hot plate and the top of the oven, the air intakes, the ash-pan, between the fire bricks and the cast iron walls of the hearth. Then, Friday 15th August, Ascension Day, I lit the stove. It is only Sunday - but the weather holds good.
But then, before I boast, I should point out that 15th August is often a pivotal day for weather according to local legend. And the first autumn crocus has shown its head - fifteen days earlier than expected. The Weather Gods may yet have tricks to show.