20 January 2010

upstairs, downstairs


It was a Messy Tuesday. The grate needed cleaning and a fire laying. I could have ignored it, but there is something so particularly dusty and dirty and depressing about a dead fire. It made me think about what it was like for my mum and aunts when they were young women and the only source of heat was a coal fire, all that sweeping and cleaning and chopping.

I am adept at the laying of fires after years of practice; our domestic standard is one match only for the lighting, and definitely no firelighters. But mysterious things happen in the far end of the cellar under the coalhole. We used to have a neat little tool to chop wood, but it has disappeared. Now we have a mighty axe fit to create havoc with careless hands. It's beyond me. I scrabble around picking up leftover splinters of wood and breaking what I can over my bent leg. (Yes, I am that person to be seen poking around in skips looking for old orange boxes, possibly the greenest part of our extravagant domestic heating arrangements)

Coal I can manage a little more easily. Not real coal, not allowed in London, but a manufactured concoction, chunky and black, and reminiscent of Pomfret Cakes. It makes a most satisfying clunk when it rolls down into the scuttle.

These nether regions of the cellar are home to all sorts. Just last week I had to remove all my old baskets when I discovered woodworm in them, a very alarming discovery. This time I found an elegant young slug, which at least explained the curious slime trails I've been seeing. I'm beginning to wonder whether it is only a matter of time before I come across toads lurking on the earth banks, or Mrs Tittlemouse sweeping up the dusty floor.

Looking for the largest splinters and leftovers I could find, I came across a sad looking toy soldier in the coal dust on the cellar floor. It stopped me in my tracks - I can remember my boy playing with these.

I left the dusty underworld and sent down the boy to get to work.

6 comments:

j said...

Arrietty setting up house? Check the attic...

colleen said...

I'm beginning to wonder. They did live under the floorboards, didn't they.

Val said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Val said...

EBAY UK list a few stick choppers & Bill hooks that may be less dangerous than hefting a huge axe
see
http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-BRADES-SOCKETED-10-BILL-HOOK-BILLHOOK_W0QQitemZ200427769153QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Collectable_ToolsHasdware_RL?hash=item2eaa6d0d41
for an idea

colleen said...

Val - so kind of you to find those links for me. We've got some better tools for the job somewhere...just not sure where they've disappeared to.

Val said...

Ours are elusive too except for the one with the bright yellow handle which even I find a bit hard to loose
..I have absolutely no chance when left with the oh's axe collection they weigh a ton and even if I can lift them I get them stuck in the darn logs!