Up on the roof … again

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. What people don’t tell you is how often that single step wasn’t supposed to lead to anything more than a short stroll. Then someone said, “while we’re going this way why don’t we…” and before you know it you’re off on a hike across the continent.

So, it’s been with our chimney.

It started off as a small task. The lower part of our flue from the log burner had a small hole where the metal was corroding. Let’s fix it this summer. A simple job. Replace a single one-metre section of flue with a new one. Then we thought we should check the rest of the flue … just in case. So we took off the register plate, looked up the chimney and saw that the rest of the flue was corroding where the one-metre sections joined. There was a small hole or crack in every section. We’d have to replace the entire flue.

Which made us think … while we’re doing all this work on the flue why not replace the log burner at the same time. The log burner was old and under powered. So we bought a new log burner.

Then we considered the chimney. It leaked in heavy rain. We’d never worked out where the water was getting in. Why not take the cap off – we’d have to anyway to fit the new flue – and redesign a new cap?

More work. Our chimney was built in the 18C and is huge – there are iron hooks inside to hang hams for smoking. It’s also non-standard in every way. The top isn’t flat or particularly rectangular. It’s a hole about 4 foot by one foot surrounded by large, irregular pieces of granite. So I’ve had to build my own cap out of stone, tile and cement to attach the metal flue to and keep the water out. The big test comes on Monday when the rains arrive.

Now, I have to rush. I’ve still got a few finishing touches to apply.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his  BVC bookshelf .

Recently released from Book View Press: French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a  glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget  Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!

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Up on the roof … again — 10 Comments

  1. But, Chris, what we all want to know – do you actually hang hams on the hooks, for smoking? And if not, why not? And if so, may I have one pretty please…?

  2. Chris…

    I really can’t add too much to this. I’m currently in the fourth year of a one day repair job to the back door of the house. Funny, the door never went back in, or the walls, oh, and the roof was holding water. So yes, I do understand the chimney.

    *The train of thought barrels onward*

    On that note, one thing leads to another, has anybody else ever noticed how all the really good stories are the ones that were not supposed to be stories?

    I just had to pop down to the market, needed a couple of fresh onions for the soup… now it’s six days later, I’m in France looking for clues to an ancient ruin below the sewers of Paris, never did find the onions, and I hope the cat remembered to turn off the simmering pot before it boiled dry.

    Or how about – Jane and Ted asked us over to dinner, it was pot roast… now we’re in for questioning about the new couple that moved in down the street and nobody’s seen them since.

    Just thinking…. always a dangerous pastime.

    Back to making lunch, before the gnomes turn into hobgoblins…

    Dan.

  3. And if you do =not= have hams hanging in the chimney, you obviously should start, as soon as repairs are complete. I suppose European Community regs will prevent BVC from going into ham sales.

  4. Me, I’m just stunned at the idea of living in a house with an 18C chimney and speculating that the house is likely much older than that. The thought of living in a house that is history personified appeals greatly to me, living as I do in a country in which anything built 200 years ago is considered impossibly old, and homes dating from the beginning of the 20th Century are given historical markers.

    Of course, the chimney sounds daunting and I personally would be dreadful about doing the necessary repairs. I lived for many years in DC in an “old” house — built in 1932 — that needed any number of things that I never did anything about.

  5. We’ve thought, briefly, about hanging hams in the chimney but decided against it. The inside of the chimney’s black with soot which we’re loathe to brush too hard as old French rural buildings tend not to have too much mortar between the stones. And what mortar there is tends to be more sand than cement, so a rough brushing might dislodge more than the soot. So, we chickened out and sealed the chimney with a register plate.

    But we do make our own ham – curing our lamb for a couple of months in a mixture of cider, cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, pepper corns and cloves.

  6. Sherwood, we still have the orginal stone sink – a slab of granite sculpted to hold water. The ‘drain’ is a channel at the back designed to shed the water to the outside of the house.

    There are two other old houses on the property – both used for animals now. One of them dates from the 16C and is next to an even older ruin – a very small house built on a rocky outcrop and using some of the giant boulders as part of the walls.

    Plus there’s our dolmen – several thousand years old.

  7. Something I’ve always wondered about living in houses that old — does it have a particular odor that is its own? Can you walk into certain rooms and always smell the lingering hint of cured hams in the kitchen, or a cat who was always marking territory in the hall? Or is it possible to air out the house and remove the odors — or remove a beam or a piece of wall plaster, and take away where the ale was always emptied out, or a cat marked?

  8. Kathi, the only house I’ve ever noticed a particular smell was an old (17C) thatched cottage that we looked round. The smell was powerful and unique and I think came from the abundance of heavy oak beams. It was like an aromatic pipe tobacco. Not pipe smoke but the aroma of the raw pipe tobacco. And then add a few aromatic spices.

    We made an offer on the house an hour later. Unfortunately we later found there was an agricultural tie to the property which meant only agricultural workers could own it.

    Shame.