Dan Dan the Chimney Man (this is what he calls himself) is here this morning sweeping my five chimneys. This involves much laying down of white rolls of paper which he and his elderly helper skid and trip on, the painted floors here being a bit slippy. Dan is wearing Bermuda shorts. No, I don't know why. I like calling Dan Dan to hear his anwer machine. The current message,delivered in his thick accent says, " If the line is busy, don't get in a tizzy. Never feeah, Dan is heeah, 365 days a yeeah. Toodles!"
Last week the electrician was here replacing all of the smoke alarms. All of this in preparation for the steady stream of city folk who come here and light the fires and set off the alarms with noisesome regularity. We had a chimney fire in England once. It was after a 12th night party when all Christmas decorations are supposed to come down. My husband was directing guests down our icy little lane and I was waving merrily from the front door when I noticed that the holly wreath was still in place. I took it into the sitting room and tossed it onto the embers in the fireplace. Moments later, from the kitchen, I heard a deep, other worldly roar emanating from the sitting room. I entered the room and saw nothing amiss. Gingerly I approached the fireplace where the embers continued to flicker innocently while the roar grew louder. I bent and looked up the chimney and saw the fire. Peter appeared, saw me, heard the roar and disappeared into the January night, reappearing with garden hose which he aimed up the chimney. The Faversham fire department's little truck could be seen for miles wending its way toward us through the country lanes and our neighbours all appeared in the snowy night - many in bathrobes and all clutching bottles of wine. It was, afterall Christmas, and it was England and a chimney fire is as good excuse as any for a party. Only my husband was missing, engaged as he was with the hose, saving our hamlet from burning to the ground. To appreciate the severity of the fire, one only had to notice that while the hose was on full force for many minutes, not one drop of water was in the fireplace. When it was over,we all stood in the lane and toasted the firemen, wished each other a happy twelfth night and went to bed happy that all was well and safe and good.