Sunday, 18 May 2014

How to make a fire, psychology and a touch of mythology

My story today is about making a fire, not any fire, not a fire when camping, not a fire to cook on, although that brings it's own tale of woe with it, but today is about making a simple little fire in a fireplace in a house in a suburb; but let me not cut straight to the chase.......

At long last Winter is upon us, now for most normal folk this may seem like the oddest statement, for me however winter is the most glorious time of cold, it is a time when I feel comfortable and normal.
Summer on the other hand is heat and sweat, discomfort during the day and tossing and turning in a too hot bed at night. In summer I drive with my aircon on full blast, my office I chill down to about 18C.
So as you see for me Winter is great........but with everything there is a quid pro quo......

Today is cloudy and about 13C which for me is just before it melts my eyeballs - And it starts something like this......

Pam: it's a bit chilly today, how about we have a fire?
Me: *pretend not to hear*
Pam: don't you think we need a fire, it'll be nice
Me: Uh Huh

And with that off Pam goes to church. On Sundays I stay at home to do do the house cleaning, clothes washing and dishes - so domesticated aren't I?
I do the estimates - it is now 9:00am Pam will be back from church around 11:30 so I will start the fire around 10:30 - how cheerful this all sounds.....


But before this happens to happen as it happens, I decide to do a couple of other minor jobs....
Oh I forgot to mention, a major water main burst so we have no water this means no dish washing and no clothes washing - can't go the local launderette as they won't have water either.

But anyway, back to the story and down to the garage; I had to move my bicycles out of my workshop, repack some old wine racks that we're lying around, take photos of a treadmill I want to sell ..... Oh and change the diesel filter in my SUV ( as one does)
Changing the diesel filter should be a breeze, I own a '73 CJ5 jeep that I once upon a time stripped down to the last nut and bolt and re-assembled - again as one does ( that is another story for another time), don't tell Pam; it doesn't run at the moment so I've got it hidden away in a storage garage, got to get it up and running soon.

So to the oil filter..... You are probably wandering what this has got to do with the fire?....... Well actually nothing other than it put me in the "mood" for a fire.

A diesel filter needs to be kept clean and above all free of water, now diesel in South Africa is filthy stuff, lots of water, one can reset the electronics of the vehicle every now and then - which I just happen to know how to do, it also saves money getting the service agent to do this 30 sec job and charging you R450.00 ($45.00) to fool the car into thinking the filter is replaced but sooner or later you have to change the filter. So I open it all up and I find the filter is black with dirt, either they didn't change it at the last service ( highly possible) or the diesel is really really dirty.

Mood is spiraling down hill fast, psychology time yet... No!

Open filter housing
Remove old filter
Put in new filter
Close up housing
Filter leaks
Strip down filter housing again
Re-seat filter
Close up housing
Check again
........ Forget to prime filter..... Car won't start.....
Gnash teeth a bit, prepare to strip down filter
Remember to prime filter
Car starts **PHEW**

Start cleaning out workshop, time is marching on relentlessly........
And now it is Time for the fire and a lesson in psychology

The five stages of just about any process.....

Stage 1: Denial
Stage 2: Anger
Stage 3: Bargaining
Stage 4: Depression
Stage 5: Acceptance

I don't have to make the fire, it's too warm for a fire, it's only 13C it'll get warmer
But I know I have to do it.... So I make a start.

We have a really nice looking fireplace in our one lounges that I know hates me with all the emotion of a totally inanimate object.

So I gather the accoutrements needed:
Fire lighters
Hair dryer........ ?????? Yes a hair dryer

To make a fire: make small fist size bundles of paper, place some fire lighters in with the paper, make a pyramid over the paper and firefighters with thin bits of kindling and apply match.
The hair dryer by the way is to pump as much air as I can in below the fire to get it going, trick I read in Popular Mechanics years ago......

Enter stage 2: Anger

Watch the fire dwindle out
Instant bad mood and foul language.........
Break apart pyramid and start again
Let me point out at this time, you have to get the flue warm to make the fire draw nicely, and we have an odd dogleg shape in the flue to get the chimney out to the house.
So I rebuild the fire....

..........Watch the fire dwindle out


Break apart pyramid and start again

Stage 3: Bargaining

I am now talking to the fireplace, discussing how IT WILL BEHAVE, and I won't hate it so much if it starts working, maybe my position on my knees begging just gives the fireplace power and a sense of superiority because it does not work...... The bargaining that is......
I am praying to Gedi, Vulcan and Huracan** for assistance........ They are enjoying the spectacle as much as the fireplace

Stage 4: Depression

It s not going to light, Pam will be home soon, the house is cold, I'm a failure, the fireplace is laughing at me - I can hear it, the voices in my head have ganged up on the side if the fireplace and are laughing as well

Stage 5: Acceptance

OK so I am useless at making fires, we all know that, I have never been adept at making fires, not even when I was in the military, it's so bad that I won't even braai (barbecue) if I don't have access to a nice little gas cooker - we have a portable gas braai for traveling.

And I'm building pyramids
And lighting
And pumping in air
And starting to blubber

....... And PFFFWWAAAAAHHHHHH it roars into life .......


I know just what early caveman felt.... Immense cosmic power.....

* These epic words are from Dante's inferno; Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

** Mythological gods of fire ( I get desperate at this point)

1 comment:

  1. Several points i would like to make:

    1. still love your writing style!

    2. Yes, very domesticated of you for a Sunday morning, well done to Pam, she trained you well. I think I need to meet Pam and get a tutorial? :-)

    3. I'll buy your treadmill. You wouldn't happen to have an elliptical trainer or a rowing machine, would you? :-)

    4. Among my circle of friends,I am known as Olga the Fire Starter. So let me help here. Forget paper balls - they burn out too soon before the kindling catches. Simplest method for starting a fire first time every time - pun in some charcoal. Then a bit of fire lighters. Charcoal retains heat for a long time, and therefore gives the wood a chance to catch on. I don't even bother with kindling- works with big pieces of wood. Saves on chopping time. And absolutely no need for hair styling equipment!

    5. You should have prayed to Olga the Fire Starter. Now you know, for future reference. But if you do as instructed above, there should be no need for prayer.

    6. Thanks this was fun!