Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Light my fire

You know by now that we have a coal fire, but you don’t yet know about my evening routine of lighting the fire and how much Bingley enjoys helping me.

The B still sleeps most of the afternoon, but when I start banging around in the kitchen at around 5pm he immediately snaps awake and is ready for action. I keep him out of the way whilst I clean out the hot ashes, but when he sees me heading out into the backyard for the coal he knows it’s time to start chipping in.

When we get out to the bunker he always stands with his muzzle by the coal bucket, counting in each piece as I shovel. If a piece of coal misses the bucket it’s jackpot for Bingley: he picks it up in a flash and he’s off. Either I chase him, or he crunches it up: either way it’s a win win situation for him.

But I’ve got a steady hand and I’ve had lots of practice, so unless I’m feeling generous, no coal gets Binged.

Bingley then follows me inside as I lug the bucket with its squeaky handle to the fire place; he then follows me again as I head for the basket of kindling. Mmmmm, kindling! Ready made chews for Bing. But again, I’m a dab hand at this and know just how many sticks to pick up without dropping any. If I do drop one, ever helpful Bing lets me know immediately by picking it up and doing the mad kindling dance around the lounge.

If all has gone smoothly, I now have coal, kindling and fire lighters spread out on the hearth and it’s time to lay the fire. This is the best bit.

Crouching in front of the fireplace, I begin to place the coal. Bingley always comes and stands just behind me with his chin resting on my shoulder, watching every bit of coal and kindling being carefully placed. Ever helpful, once I’ve put a light to the fire he then decides that he’d better check that my ears are clean of coal dust by giving them a good licking. As I start squirming, he muzzles my hair furiously, then hoping that I’m distracted enough not to notice, he pushes his muzzle under my armpit to check the hearth for any coal or kindling that might have been left behind.

I sometimes leave a bit of kindling there because once he spots it his tail wags so much that I don’t need to use the bellows!

A variation of this happens every evening. Sometimes he gets the coal, sometimes he doesn’t; kindling gets snaffled every now and then. But he’s always a snuggley helper.

Sadly, the next house doesn’t have an open fire and it’s difficult to imagine a gas fire generating the same enchanting routine. But knowing Bing, I’m sure he’ll soon find plenty of other ways in which he can be helpful.

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