Monday, 28 December 2009


The last Bank Holiday today and it's all passed so quickly. Hope you had a good weekend and for those of you suffering because of the unseasonably cold, snowy winter weather, keep warm and cosy, there's more to come apparently.

For most of us in modern houses, open coal fires are a thing of the past, gas (in my case) is so convenient and clean. I can remember at my childhood home having an outhouse with two doors, with an outside loo on one side and the coal bunker on the other side had to be divided into two to cater for the different types of fuel. This was because the posh front room was coal fuelled and the back room fire in the Victorian three storey house we had would only run on coke fuel and would take ages to get going with a gas poker. Eventually, that fire was replaced with a gas fire.

Black filthy sacks of coal were delivered by a soot faced man on the back of flat back lorry which pulled down the back tenfoot.

Sacks of logs were bought from wherever we could get them from at about ten shillings or 15 shillings, (50 to 75 pence) a bag, in today's money, about half a Euro. The dog grate was cleared out in the morning and the ash scattered over the tenfoot which was a mud track, not metalled. A mixture of newspaper and kindling sticks were laid out and pieces of coal strategically placed. The paper was ignited with a match and you hoped that it would catch. Occasionally it needed a hand. A huge piece of newspaper (a broadsheet in those days) was placed over the fireplace and the draught it created was phenomenal - many is the sheet of paper that ended up disappearing up the chimney!

The fires were always great to watch and picture in the fire was a favourite pastime. Logs crackling and coal spitting meant the carpet in front of the fire had a few burn marks in it despite having a spark guard. The trouble is that they did create dust, mainly from the cleaning out in the morning.

Mr Jones was the chimney sweeper; he was also the council street lighting man. He would lay out his dust sheets all over the room, get his rods out and the one with the big brush at the end and set out on the very physical job of bringing all the soot down. It was always hard work for him, pushing a brush up three storeys and it was my job to go outside and tell him when I saw the brush poking out of the top of the chimney. We even had a cat once who sat on the ledge at the back of the fireplace up the chimney, when it wasn't lit of course, presumably because it was nice and warm.

The daytime weather isn't too bad today, clear, chilly but thawing slightly, but the road still has ice on it. Off to the tip this afternoon so I can make room in the garage to get access to the treadmill which is under several black bags of something I have to take to the council depot to recycle. I noticed that Sainsburys car park was absolutely chocker-block this morning, I don't think I'll do any shopping until tomorrow when it's hopefully quieter.

Well that's my rabbiting done for today. Here's a list of unusual words and their meanings from the past for people who like to rabbit on. Thanks to 'The Wonder of Whiffling' by Adam Jacot de Boinod.

Macrology (1586) much talk with little to say;
Clatterfart (1552) a babbler, a chatterer;
Chelp (Northern and Midlands 19th century) to chatter or speak out of turn;
Blatteroon (1645) a person who will not stop talking;
Clitherer (Galway) a woman with too much to say.

Chat soon



  1. We have an open fire, it's lovely on these cold winter evenings, but it is messy.
    I'm sick of the snow and ice, we are snowed in and I don't like it.

  2. I Val, I hope everyone there is ok or on the mend - I agree the snow is both something to love or to detest and although I like the snow, perhaps it's a little selfish because I know it brings hardship to many.
    Kindest regards