chez nous, surrounded as we are by other houses, but the church's huge - and sometimes daunting - grounds are just calling out for such activity and today had been designated for a clear-up of grounds and Rectory - the former after a hard winter, the latter after les travaux, big-style.
I have always been a pyromaniac at heart, the kind of child who played with matches and loved cooking sausages on a stick over a fire (charred on the outside, raw within); the child who lit fires in underground air-raid shelters; the adult who today offered to take care of all the rhododendrons which the chaps were howking out of the ground while the Marthas toiled in the Rectory.
At one point, I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew (don't be silly. It's a figure of speech. I wasn't eating rhoddies) when only a thin trickle of smoke was coming from the shoulder-high pile of branches and glossy green leaves with the odd bramble waving destructively from somewhere in its midst. Most of the Marthas had gone home for luch, and I was left with Mrs Heathbank and Hugh, soon to be known as Hugh the Martyr after he jumped onto the pile to drive it down onto the flames. (The martyrdom was aborted when he succeeded in suppressing the fire completely). My despair deepened when Mrs H went home for lunch and Hugh went off to attack yet another bush. What would I do?
In fact, all I needed to do was open a wee cave in the foot of the fire. I propped the mound up with a curving branch, rather in the manner of a Greenham woman's bender, letting in a tiny wind that had conveniently chosen this moment to blow. A sudden crackling from deep within the pile suggested that all was not lost, and minutes later the flames burst through the top, the heat intensified, there was ash flying everywhere and it was all I could do to rake the fire together without being singed. Fifteen minutes later, all that was left was the small pile of ash you can see smoking in the photo, and I was satisfied.
But I think we may need another wee tidy of the fallen sticks on the lawn - and maybe another wee fire?