We waved goodbye to the house guests early on Monday who in an inspired decision determined to go 300 kms north to the Gargano peninsular from where they have been sending us envy causing e mails describing the sunshine and deserted beaches whilst we watched the rain come down. However with no reason now to heat the downstairs part of the house( we having retreated to higher ground). Last night to overcome my ennui ridden day I decided to fire up Big Bertha.
She is what the Italians call a termocamino which is fireplace with a water tank in the chimney ( camino) that circulates the heated water through a series of radiators we have upstairs. It was built by the previous owner who fancied himself as a master handyman and therefore carries all the problems associated with such people who try things well above their pay grade. Our plumber Orazio likes to bring trainees around to show them what can happen when people take the law into their own hands and always shakes his head when popping in for a warming grappa in the winter when he hears Big Bertha banging, thumping and gurgling.
It was decided this year to replace Bertha with a wood pellet boiler but that is to happen later this month. The cold weather having caught us and judging by the power cuts the National Grid out. So I thought give her one last fling, one last canter around the enclosure, one last gurgle and thump before the breakers yard.
To the wood shed I went to get her food. Woodsheds are man territory in Italy as is wood ordering and the talking knowledgeably to the wood deliverer as well as unfortunately the stacking and carrying of wood. Italian women are allowed to put the odd log on the fire but only under strict supervision but do of course sweep the wood droppings from the floor after every reload and clean the grate each morning. My attempt at introducing this system into the house was a failure and I do all of the above chores.
A voice from the sofa said something about checking things but this is man’s work and I was in full Italian male mode by now. At Alamo Rent-a-Car I did some work on reasons for rental car crashes. A common cause was foreigners used to driving on the right looking the wrong way and driving out to be hit by a bus or truck. However the major reason was men and only men getting into the car at the rental station starting it up and driving off and only then searching for the lights, indicators, seat adjustment lever, and how the radio worked. They were hit or hit someone within minutes. I wish that thought had come to me yesterday evening.
I lit the wood and it became evident quite quickly that Bertha whilst not known for her pulling power was not drawing smoke up the chimney. Within minutes doors and windows were open rather negating the reason for the fire in the first place. I was dispatched to the flat roof to find out what was wrong.
Up on the roof the reason was clear . The twirly thing on the chimney that should be spinning like a top wasn’t moving and bits of grass were sticking out of it. At first I attacked the problem with fingers until I discovered that the edges of the twirly thingy were razor sharp. In the end I had to take the entire unit off and there was a sight to behold.
This was no ordinary birds nest. This was a two story job that filled the top of the chimney . If Foxtons were selling it in Mayfair this would be a des. res. detached house with plenty of space with the benefit of an heated underground swimming pool ( the hot water tank), ideal for family living, valued at about £4 million quid. Quite how the birds had done it amazed me as I stood in 50kph winds with the rain lashing down. Still like any jobs worth Town Planner I quickly whipped the whole lot out and threw it to the wind, then returned the whirly gig thingy to the top of the chimney and it immediately started to spin and wood smoke appeared.
With bloody fingers ( one of the benefits of blood thinning drugs is I bleed like a stuck pig and normally get lots of sympathy) I returned downstairs to the wounded hero’s welcome I expected. But not a bit of it. Now dear reader how could any of the above possibly be my fault. My job list however was extended to now include re-painting the sitting room. I thought the wood smoke colouring gave it a rather clubby effect actually but it seems not.
One piece of good new is a lovely red sunset tonight so maybe the worst of the weather is over now.