Monday, 3 September 2007

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes

September 2nd/3rd commemorates the horror of the Great Fire of London in 1666. It decimated a city of 100,000 people, destroying over 13000 dwellings over an area of a mile and a half by half a mile. The story goes that by forgetting to douse embers in his oven that night, the King's baker set off a blaze that raged overnight through a city built of timber, thatch and pitch - basically a tinderbox - and that was to continue for several days before it was finally controlled mostly by pulling down the buildings in its path until there was nothing left to burn.

It's a relief to know that we could never be the cause of any Great Fire of New Zealand, because despite the many hours we spend kneeling in front of the woodstove, poking and rearranging and joggling and blowing on embers, logs, kindling, copious amounts of firelighters and a publishing house-worth of newspapers, our fire takes at least four hours to even begin thinking about providing actual heat, and mostly instead simply chooses to give up the ghost.

I think our stove is depressed. It just shrugs as we carefully stack the logs, pile up the embers, twist the newspapers, position the kindling and firelighters, as if to say, "look, why bother? We all know I'm going to blaze with the glory of a thousand suns while the newspaper's still in here, and I'll give the impression that the logs are catching fire as the kindling burns out, and after that I'll just sigh and fill up with smoke and eventually suffocate myself. You won't get any warmer, apart from the energy you'll expend in blowing on the embers. Put on a hat and another pair of trousers, grab some mittens, find a blanket, and get over it." Sometimes the blaze gets going, and we get excited, and dance in front of the stove to show our happiness, and say encouraging and loving things to it about knowing it could do it and always believing in its ability, and we tell it it's strong enough to start the next Great Fire of London, and it cheers up for a while, but ultimately it sighs sadly, "but I know I'll never keep this up, and I'll only disappoint you in the end, so just get the blankets out and leave me to wallow in my smoky underwhelmingness."

The trouble is, cold is my absolute worst physical condition. Give me hunger or exhaustion over cold any day. When I'm cold, I have much less patience, and eat far more chocolate, and have a tendency towards tears and despair that I don't ordinarily exhibit. As you can imagine, with both the fireplace and me wallowing in misery Chris is having a fair old song and dance of a job keeping us all going. He's seriously going to have to break out the Songs That Won the Second World War soon.

Luckily The Big Sister of Chris has given to the cause by knitting me the above mitties in a warming blend of merino and silk. Their most important function is keeping my rings on my fingers, because when my hands get cold they simply slide off (the rings, that is, not the fingers). The mitties keep my hands just nicely warm enough for the retention of the rings. And that in itself is a triumph over the Great Lack of Fire of New Zealand.

Oh, by the way, September 2nd is Father's Day in New Zealand. We now have 2 different mother's days (March and May) AND 2 different father's days (June and September). Isn't there some sort of International Council of Observed Days that can sort this out, so that ex-pat children don't end up disappointing their parents?

No comments: