07 March 2011

Playing with fire

Our life here often reminds Stu of his scouting days. He frequently tells me success stories about how he used to light a campfire with only one match, cook a full meal for the scout master and build a bivvy for protection in bad weather.

Well, something happened last week that may put an end to his proud posturing.

He set himself on fire.

It was late winter and we'd already started to think about the jobs outside that needed to be done before the onset of spring. We'd decided that burning the 6-8 piles of weeds and prunings that we'd left to dry over autumn and winter was right up there on the list of priorities.

So last week, on a reasonably clear morning we set off to the bottom paddock, which contained 4 of the said piles. The temperature was still hovering around zero so we were dressed in all our warm gear, including scarves and gloves. We were also armed with the chainsaw and fuel (to cut a few of the larger pieces of wood into firewood), firelighters and matches and a shovel and rake should our bonfire get out of control.

Our first, second and third attempts to light two of the piles resulted in very little flame and much smouldering. In our great disappointment, we convinced ourselves that the piles just needed a bit more sun and then consoled each other by quickly identifying an alternative job closer to the house.

As I was gathering the tools for our return to the house, the aforementioned individual thought he'd give the bonfire one more chance. Unbeknowns to me, he had opened the fuel can and poured fuel on the old oil rag that he used for the chainsaw. He'd then inserted this rag into the middle of one of the piles and set a match to it. All of this careful activity had been conducted with his woollen gloves on.

Suddenly I heard a sort of trembling warble coming from the direction of the said individual. When I looked over at him, I saw that this ex-scout was wildly shaking a flaming glove in a rather panicked way and saying 'oooh, oooh' in a rather understated way. I figured immediately that he didn't want to draw attention to himself lest I realise the stupidity of his actions. But, being a generally insensitive sort of person, I panicked and ran over to him anyway. I couldn't pull the burning glove off his hand because he was waving it around in such an aggressive way that I couldn't get close enough to it. Instead, I did what all good ex-brownies would do. I told him to roll on the grass to smother it.

The individual ignored me. Clearly he thought that my suggestion would extract some unwanted and hysterical laughter from me. With growing alarm, I looked at the flames leaping from his hand. I watched the whites of his eyes as they grew larger and larger. Stu was watching his burning appendage as if it didn't belong to him.

Finally, he managed to wave it around and hit it with the other glove enough to put it out. Then he glanced over at me and I caught an expression which contained horror, relief and pride. I was wondering how he was able to feel any amount of pride at all, when suddenly I saw the other glove on fire! There ensued much the same sequence of events already outlined until he was eventually able to put that one out too.

No more has been said about this incident since it occurred, although I have noticed a distinct absence of scouting stories...


  1. Are you still in Italy? Still working on restoring your casale? I also live in Italy, southern Lazio. We built our house new, so no restoring anecdotes. I'd love to read more!

  2. Stopped by to see if you had written anything new :-) We had an even worse experience with fire this past year. My husband decided to burn a huge pile of very dry hay-like clippings we had from when the tall grass under our olive trees had been cut down. Well, the fire got away from him and jumped over to the neighbor's young olive trees and started to work its way up the hill. The firemen took a good 15-20 minutes to arrive but in the end all was OK-- except my husband's pride! and maybe 20 young olive trees we will replace for the adjoining property-owner. Fire--scary stuff!

  3. Cath
    You now have time to fix the plumbing and continue with your excelent blog.


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