Where there's smoke, there's fire: usually

Posted June 26, 2017

Where there's smoke, there's fire: usually

A firepit sounded like a great idea. 


At the end of a long summer’s day, as the air begins to cool, we could still be outdoors. We’d have the glow of our fire and a canopy of stars to keep us company. In the Autumn, we’d wrap up warm and cosy up next to the flames. We could toast marshmallows. I’ve never toasted a marshmallow in my life but I love the idea of it.


“Is it meant to do that?” I asked, as huge plumes of white smoke rose from the crucible. My husband - the fire starter - reassured me that it was just taking hold; it would settle in a short while. I sipped my glass of Sauvignon Blanc and waited. 


Soon it was dusk and the air was full of birds darting to and fro before settling for the night.  A goldfinch, so tiny I could hardly make it out, sat high on the rooftop. It chirruped and trilled loudly (maybe it was raising an avian alarm) as the white smoke-mass grew thick and acrid.  


It filled the garden. Not only our garden but the neighbouring gardens too. Next door had a full line of washing out. That will need doing again, I thought. My eyes were stinging and my clothes stank of smoke. I began to cough. The last time I felt borderline asphyxiation like this was on a pub night in East London before the smoking ban.


A neighbour appeared at his back door. “Sorry,” I said. “We haven’t quite got the hang of this yet.” He told us he was about to call the fire brigade. He smiled as he said it but, when he went back inside and shut all his windows, I took the hint. “This is embarrassing,” I hissed. “Just put the damn thing out.” I offered to throw water over it. My husband refused to give up and I think I know why. 


He was a latch key kid. His job was to light the fire, every day, when he got home from school. Different times. Now you’d be locked up for child endangerment. He prided himself on always being able to get a good fire going. Apart from tonight, that is. I stomped into the house, leaving him to it. 


The next day I ordered smoke free logs. Who knew there was such a thing? The firepit manufacturer, for one. Apparently it’s no good buying any old firewood from the nearest garage. You need the special logs they recommend. At quite a cost.


Smoke free logs are strange looking things: rectangular blocks made from compressed sawdust that are hollow in the middle. Probably to let the smoke circulate, suggested my husband. I threw him a filthy look. He’d already circulated enough smoke around the neighbourhood.  


“How many logs does it take to light a fire?” he asked. From the pictures on the manufacturer’s website, I’d say three at most. He thinks that is nowhere near enough (that’s the pyromaniac coming through again). I’m anticipating a total whiteout this time. 


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