47 – Fifty Shades of Grey

I’m definitely a “cup half full” type of person.  Just as well, really.  I nearly burned my house down ….. but I didn’t and I’m turning it to an opportunity.

It was pretty stupid, when all’s said and done.  I’d been storing some logs around the chimney of my estufa, to dry them, because Francisco had delivered them on a rainy day and it being my first delivery I was unprepared and had no cover for the heaped pallet in the patio.  So a few armloads were lugged upstairs to dry around the warm chimney.

47-grey3So each evening that I lit the wood-burner, I took a few logs off the carefully-arranged stack, and replaced them with more of the damp ones.  It looked like a massive game of Jenga resting above the air-vents.  What I hadn’t worked out (duh!) was that the ones at the bottom of the criss-cross of logs weren’t getting used.  So four months on and they were dry.  Definitely dry.  Tinder dry.

Late February.  Not using the estufa so much.  But then the snow came, and I had friends popping in later in the afternoon.  So I lit the wood-burner and the room began to warm up, ready for my visitors, and I looked forward to a cosy evening in afterwards.  Ros called, they’d found the square with the fountain, and were waiting by the ayuntamiento.  I chucked another of the big logs on and went out to meet them.  We strolled round the outer edge of the village – my daily morning walk, the walk I take all my visitors on to show off the wonderful views.  Ros and Gareth were fit and healthy so we took the slightly longer walk then cut back into the lanes and home.

Outside my neighbour’s house, Isabelle called to me.  Her brother Lorenzo was visiting, and I’d asked her to get him to pop in when he was next around.  He’s a builder, a proper one, and had re-built her entire house.  I’d watched his work for my first four months in my house and he was a quick but skilled and careful worker, and I wanted him to quote me for damp-proofing and re-plastering the wall below the window that had some water damage.  So my visitors and I, followed by Lorenzo, traipsed indoors.  He inspected the problem wall and gave me an extraordinarily reasonable quote (mates’ rates, for his sister’s neighbour).   I had one more question for him, about the top terrace, so we all filed upstairs.

It took me a moment to understand.  There shouldn’t be this much smoke.  A glance towards the wood-burner explained everything.  The last big log I’d put on had lit quickly and the flames had grown.  A stray flame or even just a spark had flown out of the top vents and had caught the bone-dry logs on the top of the stove.  The criss-cross of stored sticks was aflame!  One had fallen – only a foot away from the sofa (which would of course have gone up in an instant).  Lorenzo and I had got all the windows open and the smoke cleared rapidly.  Gareth had gone down for water.  I grabbed the rug which already had scorch marks and smothered the remaining logs.  With the tongs we chucked the smouldering wood into the metal fire-bucket and took them outside, where Lorenzo hosed it down.  Back indoors, now with cups of tea to calm us down (you can take the woman out of England but you can’t take her away from her cup of tea in a crisis …..), we reminded ourselves of all the “could have” scenarios and our relief came out in laughing at how the neighbours must have enjoyed the extra warmth they were getting through the wall.  Ros suggested that in future I shouldn’t dry wood on top of the stove.

47-grey1I shouldn’t have left the dry wood stacked around the chimney, of course.  And I shouldn’t have gone out and left the fire.  Lessons learned.  The smell of smoke lingers to remind me.

No lasting damage.  The TV aerial cable that ran along the floor behind the estufa was the only thing that needed replacing.  Jose popped in, ran a new cable, and after hearing my tale he suggested that I shouldn’t dry wood on top of the stove.  That evening over spaghetti in front of a friend’s wood-burner I recounted the story again (my Spanish getting more fluent with each re-telling).  He suggested that I shouldn’t dry wood on top of the stove.

No damage, but I now have a lounge tastefully decorated in fifty shades of grey.

While I’m back in the UK running training courses in Devon, Laura will be my life-saver.  A young Spanish woman working three jobs and looking after her little boy, she is a painter and decorator with an eye for colour.  Instead of just going for the usual blanco on all the walls, with Laura’s encouragement I have bought a tin of dusky deep pink, terracotta, not quite red, paint.  Just for the smallest wall behind the chimney.  I daren’t risk more colour just yet.  Poco a poco – little by little.

47-grey2Laura is in there now, cleaning off the fifty shades of grey, repainting the white walls, and giving me a brave splash of red on the end wall.  Just in case I decide to set fire to my house again, I’m hoping the red will show the smoke stains less.

I can’t wait to see it!

And I wonder how many EXTRA readers will have clicked on this blog post, just because of the title.  Eh girls?

© Tamara Essex 2013

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10 thoughts on “47 – Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. Very lucky. We have an open wood fire – when we started it up during our first few winter visits, we wondered why our neighbours looked forward to the firework display emanating from the chimney top. Of course, we’d had birds nesting at the top and no-one had told us that, (especially the builder) to stop the little b……s nesting there, we needed to shore up the holes with chicken wire. As a result, on starting up a fire, we had the delightful grey stains building up on the chimney breast, walls and ceiling, courtesy of all the smoke wafting around the room. But the builder did eventually install the chicken wire, and last year we got around to having the chimney breast painted a beautiful shade of terracotta – sound familiar?

  2. Hello Tamara! I’m glad all ended happily. Although we all know now that we shouldn’t dry wood around the stove I have to admit that it seemed a good idea to me …..as well as your title ;-). Love your writing. Te echamos de menos en las clases de español. Besos

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