Monday, January 26, 2009


The weather last weekend was supposed to be bad. Saturday was meant to be overcast, with showers punctuating the overall dampness; Sunday so wet an aqualung would be a wise precaution before venturing outside. For once, or rather for yet another time, the forecasters got it spectacularly wrong and we were blessed with a warming sun and very little wind.

There may be a lot to do in the house, but as I child I was brought up in the belief that if there was daylight and not actually what is now termed 'severe' weather or worse, then I should be out there enjoying it. There's also the fact that at the moment we leave for work just as the sun is beginning to think about getting up, and arrive back home again just as it's snuggling under the duvet and starting to snore. Haggis the Lucky Labrador has a natty day-glo collar with flashing red LEDs which goes very nicely with the Strathclyde Regional Water Authority yellow reflective jackets my little brother nicked for me and the Horse Doctor all those many years ago when he was working in their pooh-recycling facility in Glasgow, and they come in very handy as we walk the night lanes come rain or starlight. But it does meant that actual sunlight is something of a novelty, to be made the most of whenever it appears.

So the thought of a dry weekend was not to be sneezed at. Or at least if sneezed at then wiped with a delicate handkerchief and politely 'bless-you-ed' away. And even if there is a lot to do in the house, there's as much if not more to do in the garden. As is her wont, the Horse Doctor set about a grand project, in this instance the removal of the overlarge Mahonia shrub that dominates the back garden now that we've cut almost everything else down.

The Mahonia in all her glory

Armed only with her trusty pruning saw and a pair of extendible loppers, she faced down the monstrous beast and turned it into a pile of spiky leaves and rubbery branches oozing foul, sticky yellow sap that made your fingers look like they belonged to a lifelong chain-smoker. Where once there was an overgrown bush of fearsome proportions, now there was a waste heap of overgrown proportions.

During the meanwhile, I had been fighting with my chainsaw, trying to get it to start. This had already involved a trip to town to get fresh petrol and two-stroke oil, much fiddling with settings and draining out of flooded cylinders. But would the thing start? Would it buggery.

So there I was, with a five litre can half full of old two-stroke mix and a pile of garden waste needing disposal. The solution was obvious - light a fire and burn it all.

We've had plenty of bonfires here over the last year. Before we even arrived, the neighbours had already cleared out the house and burned everything in a big pile, which is a bit of a pain because my soon-to-be vegetable patch is full of rusting bedsprings, bent nails and broken glass> But it means there's a handy place for burning things, down at the bottom of the garden, not too far from the Ty Bach*, where previous generations of owners have stored their mower fuel, greenhouse paraffin and half-empty creosote cans.

I piled up the Mahonia cuttings, along with some bits of dry wood and cardboard that needed burning, and doused the whole lot with the two-stroke mix. Left it to sook in a bit rather than lighting it straight away, then set a match to a firelighter on the end of a big stick, and poked it into the heap.

And then the Ty Bach exploded.

How did that happen?

There was a bang that rattled windows all around the village, and echoed off the far side of the valley, upsetting the Red Kites. A mushroom of grey-black smoke billowed upwards into the still sky, and thousands of tiny fragments of slate roof pattered down like birdshot. Luckily I was wearing a hat.

I can only guess that the cold still air had allowed petrol fumes to spread out along the ground from the bonfire until they reached the Ty Bach, even though it was a good fifteen feet away. It's lower than pretty much everything else in the garden, and all those half-empty fuel and creosote cans must have leaked a potent cocktail that mixed with just the right amount of air to become explosive. My careful flame was all it took.

Just as well nobody was using it at the time.

*it's Welsh for 'little house', and every civilised abode in the countryside has one, usually at the bottom of the garden. The French would call it an oubliette; the Australians a dunny.



Blogger swallowtail said...

Mercy!!! Here I was kinda wishing we were neighbors, now I must give that fantasy second thought...

You must be a writer. xoxo

January 28, 2009 12:51 am  
Blogger Jen Jordan said...

You have green outside?


You lucky bastard.

And you get to burn things in big piles?


And then you got to blow something up.


January 28, 2009 1:15 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Handwash only