We have an enclosed wood fireplace in our living room.
For the first few years we lived here, it was the Only Heating we had. In the whole, drafty house.
We’d get home from work, put our coats ON, and try to light the fire. Sometimes we failed, and it would take an hour before the place started to warm up.
Overnight, we’d put on a mallee root, but it never quite burned till morning.
When Bigster was born, we bought a radiant heater for her room, but didn’t think to actually do anything about the rest of the house. Getting up for 3am feeds was, well, it was pretty close to impossible. Try juggling a hungry, crying baby while you add a couple of logs to a fire. They’d just be starting to burn when she finished her feed!
Not long after I found out I was pregnant with Otto, I got back-paid for a year-old payrise. When I got home that day, there was a leaflet in the letterbox offering a percentage off central heating.
Clearly, the fates were on our side. Between backpay and discount, I think we only had to find about $500 to get the system installed.
And ever since, we have been toasty warm. And the fireplace has never been used, not once.
Until last Friday.
But let’s backtrack a bit.
A couple of years ago, when we had the Big Smell, I got a chimney sweep in and he removed a dead bird from the chimney. He also offered to put some wire around the top of the chimney, so that birds couldn’t get in. I thought this sounded like a fine idea, as long as we could still use the fireplace. And then he left and didn’t put the roofplate back into the fire, and it was really heavy and so Fraser and I just left it lying there in the Too Hard Basket AKA the fireplace.
Then we didn’t use the fireplace … until last Friday, when Otto and I decided that we should OMG HAVE A FIRE because it was OMG COLD. So I struggled and got myself covered in ash and managed to get the roofplate back in.
And then we went out to the woodpile and we chose some nice pieces of wood and kindling and we even got a few briquettes to help get the fire started, and we bashed them to make sure they didn’t have spiders in them, and we brought them in and we built a lovely little fire. And Otto went and got the matches, and we lit the fire and watched it burn prettily, and watched the firebox fill up with smoke that OMG STARTED POURING OUT INTO THE LIVING ROOM.
And it was Not Good.
And I fiddled with the dampers and things, and they only made more smoke.
So I googled chimney sweeps and found yet another one that I hadn’t used before and I rang him and he reassured me that EVEN IF EVERYTHING CAUGHT FIRE it was not going to make my firebox explode but it might get rawther smoky. And we opened all the doors and all the windows and clearly it worked because when Fraser got home he said OMG WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL THE DOORS AND WINDOWS OPEN and not OMG WHY DOES THE HOUSE STINK OF SMOKE.
And the roast lamb in the oven kind of out-smelled the smoke.
And today, finally, the chimney sweep came. And Otto was refusing to get dressed and I said QUICK GET DRESSED YOU CAN SEE A CHIMNEY SWEEP and she said DUH MUMMY I HAVE ALREADY SEEEN MARY POPPINS and I said OMG I DO NOT THINK THIS GUY DANCES and eventually she did get dressed. And we giggled as the chimney wobbled from being swept, and it was really very very clean.
But at the top of the chimney there was a BIG BALLED UP BLOB of wire. Just stuffed into the top of the chimney, and stopping all the smoke getting past.Yes, it would have stopped birds, but that was kinda secondary to actually being able to use the chimney for the purpose for which it was intended.
So my chimney sweep (yes he was small and kinda wiry) got to work. And now we now have thick galvanised chicken wire around the OUTSIDE of the chimney and a nice clean swept chimney and a roofplate that is in its correct position. And I have had a LESSON in how to use the fireplace (note to Fraser: We were doing it right. Yay.).
And there might be a fire tonight.