Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful - # 5

We've lived in this house for 17 years now. It's longer than I've lived in any other place. When we moved here we were an unmarried couple with one witch's cat, no kids and no furniture: we spent our first night under a duvet on the floor in an empty bedroom.

Since then we've done the usual things families do - knocked down walls and slapped up paint - but the single best thing we ever did was take the whitewashed brick hole beneath the blocked up old chimney and turn it back into a real fireplace again.

The house came alive.

We had coal fires in our front and back rooms when I was little (and no central heating) - a real coal bunker behind the house that the coalman filled every week, great logs too sometimes that probably came from the woods - I don't remember anyone ever buying them.

The smell of coal-tar on sharp cold days was the scent (with St Bruno ready-rubbed in the old man's pipe) of my childhood.

So the fire here connected Back, but was also about Now and what we were making here: it said This Is Home; and Let's Not Go Out Tonight, There's A Fire; and Pour Yourself A Whisky DavyH And Watch The Flames. Watching the flames dance like I'd do at my grandad's while the grown-ups blethered on about the government and the cost of living and the Capitalists.

Watching our twelve year old daughter lying on her front last week with her head resting in her hands watching the flames dance while the grown-ups blethered on about the government and the cost of living and the Capitalists.

Logs cracking down.

Scott Walker - 'Angels Of Ashes' (1969)


  1. Been in my house for just over 15 years (also by far the longest I've lived anywhere) and we had a fireplace ready but had it swept and checked. We don't use it nearly enough but it's always lovely when it's there.

    I also grew up with coal fires and no central heating - in fact until I was about 8 there was also no bathroom, instead a tin bath on the kitchen floor in front of the open fire.

    Very cheery stuff.

  2. i've gone and got something in my eye again...

  3. Lovely stuff Mr H

    connected me right back...

    My grandad was a miner, so coal was in abundance when I lived with them as a child. My nan always had a blackened apron and face by the time I got out of bed and the fire was always roaring. She used to hold newspaper in front of it to encourage the flames and it often caught fire, that was always good fun. The smell of coal burning and listening to the ten o'clock news bongs still take me right back to listening to the old house settle down, whilst I drifted off in my tiny room.

    thank you x

  4. I'm getting chilblains just thinking about how cold our council flat used to be when I was a kid. Even the lino floors would be like ice on winter mornings.

  5. I really should write a post about that.

  6. This series is great Mr H.

    We never had a coal fire up here. The forward thinking Scottish Special Housing Association had these huge electic storage heaters that gave you third degree burns, if you swung upon them and pulled them off the wall!

    L insisted in getting the fire sorted in our living room last year much to my chagrin at the time. I argued it would be smelly, dirty and the boys would burn the house down. Secretly, between you and me, I'm glad she went ahead as when it's on it's lovely but it does make me fall asleep.

    wv - gasess

  7. Council flat and freezing lino in the kitchen in winter just like Lee. They put in central heating in 1984, after we had lived there for 10 years. We had a gas fire that warmed up a square 5 foot in front of it in the room. So my mum's chair was next to it, my sisters opposite and I used to sit on the floor. The sofa was freezing!

  8. We grew up with those big storage heaters. You could lie on them if you put a towel on top to prevent burning. For about 2 minutes.

  9. I grew up in assorted shabby apartments on the wrong side of town and there was never a fireplace except when visiting relatives. We've had this place 4 years, just a tiny, older house in need of a whole lot of work but it has a fireplace, my first, which I use every chance I get and when I feel its warmth and look into the flames I have to pinch myself, I still can't believe it's right there in my own sitting room.

  10. I grew up in Equatorial New Guinea, and although human rights were below average, the tropical weather afforded us a predominantly knitted underwear-free childhood.

    We did have a fire, but that was chiefly employed to ward off the malaria carrying mozzies.

    I do recall Christmas '75 was a bit of a bugger as 150 alleged coup d'etat plotters were executed to the sound of a band playing Mary Hopkin's tune 'Those Were the Days' in the national stadium.

    How we yearned for a respected august body (such as 'The Scottish Special Housing Association') to appease the masses and to wrestle child exploitation and those tiresome Wed 'Torture Afternoons'.

    Nice record by the way.

  11. I love a house coming alive. Ah and tbe loveliness if watching our 12 year olds doing whatever it is they do.


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