November 30th 2008
Last night we decided to have our first open fire. God knows it's cold enough, after six months of mediterranean temperatures we are all struggling with the sudden cold snap. You can see snow on the caps of the mountain range behind the village and the new underfloor heating can't be used yet so we are all swaddled in layers. We did everything right, had the chimney swept, uncorked the wine and Iain started building a fire while I finished off some work upstairs. Half an hour later, the sound of coughing was followed by billowing black smoke curling up the stairs. Iain had put on a tree trunk sized log, which failed to catch fire and proceeded to fill the entire house with acrid black smoke. This happened to us in our old house in Hertfordshire, when we had my brothers-in-law Gary and Phil for dinner. Despite the fact it was freezing, we had to open every window and door and spent the whole evening trying to warm up again. He says there isn't enough draw on the fire to take the smoke up the chimney (never mind that people have been lighting fires in this house for 40 years.) Apparently it is my fault for asking if the builders could block up the opening underneath the fireplace so that it looks more pleasing to the eye. It was only a question and if they'd said no Karen, that will fill your house with black smoke next time you light a fire, I would have happily gone with the flow. I would rather have a working fireplace than one that looks a bit more symmetrical but cannot be used, but no use, it was falling on deaf ears, it is still my fault for posing the question, according to Iain.
This is where divine retribution stepped in. 'You haven't helped by putting a tree trunk on the fire,' I said, to which he said 'RIGHT, I'll take it off and YOU can make the fire instead.' So he picks up the burning ember, which weighs about 7 kilos, with a pair of tongs and runs so fast out of the house that he stubs his big toe on a stone wall before tossing the flaming ember over the terrace, along with his reading glasses which also fly off his head into the undergrowth. Did I laugh? What do you think? I built a smaller fire which was warm and toasty all evening (although it did smoke a bit,) we all went to bed looking like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins and the toe is now three times its usual size and a deeply fashionable purple.
I wasn't even supposed to be here, I should have been on plane to London on Thursday evening to interview Claire Richards, who used to sing in Steps (that's a manufactured pop band a la The Spice Girls but less successful for those of you who are interested.) But she was caught up in the anti-government demo at Bangkok airport and still can't get home from her honeymoon as the airport has been closed for days due to the presence of 170,000 protesters. More upsetting was the fact that I had arranged to have my very long, very out of condition hair cut and coloured before meeting some friends for a night out. So instead of being pampered and supping cocktails with my London buddies, I've spent two days ridding the house of three months worth of builders dust and rubble and watching The X Factor and I'm a Celebrity. Aah, the glamour of the Cote d'Azur.