Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sometimes, I like to burn things

Is is just me or do matches have an intoxicating smell?  I used to chew them as a child, that sulfur-y smell was so attractive.  And a whiff of freshly struck match transports me to any number of childhood bonfires, perched on chainsawed logs, bending over a pile of flammable goodness stuffed with newspaper in the crevices, pondering where to place the first lick of flame.  Yes, I was a devil-child sporting, trackpants, red gumboots, a mullet given to me by Mum who decided to 'fix' my fringe and with creepily pointed eye teeth (yes, yes, I know there has been a resurgence in pointy-teeth cool thanks to sparkly vampires, but I'm still grateful those ones fell out).  It was probably lucky I grew up on lifestyle block pseudo-farms, where there was room to get a little pyro on it, but sadly this tendency has followed me to adulthood (term used in loosely, more choronological than literal).  We have just moved to the 'burbs following several years of innercity dwelling and I have to say that pretty much the only redeeming feature of living outside the hub of a city is the backyard and the ability to BBQ.  I want to light it every time!  More and more, I find excuses to use the BBQ as our own incendiary/secure document disposal device...the neighbours have been pretty good about this.  The house next door burns their recycling for some reason I can't fathom other than the joy of a good burn, so at least I'm not the only one smoking out the laundry in our block's radius.  So generally, "Caution: Flammable" is pretty much a red rag to a bull.

But I'm fairly low-key about fire compared to my mother.  I think it may have been lucky I only inherited half my DNA from her because the woman is a full blown firebug.  The move to a fully-fledged large-scale farm following getting rid of the offspring was probably orchestrated by Dad in order to satisfy himself that her all-too-frequent burn-offs were happening at a safe distance from the house.  I have only scorched the walls by accident; Mum has set fire to her driveway.

Not long after they moved into the farm, Mum told Dad that a broken down chicken coop had to go.  She wasn't going to get it fixed; she had been through a hen phase that lasted from the mid-80s to the early 90s fuelled by the desire for eggs, followed by a mid-90s dove phase because of their aesthetic value, both of which ended in "no more domesticated birds, they only shit on the doorstep".  Dad wasn't fast enough on tearing the coop down, so Mum took matters into her own hands, without telling him.  My sister was visiting at the time, and she hasn't escaped the genetic pre-disposition for a little burn off either so she watched carefully as Mum stashed a packet of matches in her pocket and followed her out to the coop.  When the scale of Mum's intended conflagration occurred to Sister, she asked whether Mum intended to take any precautionary measures, being that the coop was rather close to a wooden fence and giant stand of macrocarpa trees on the driveway.  Mum thought for a minute, then ran a garden hose around from the side of the house.  Surely sufficient?  Apparently not.  The scale of the fire quickly got away from them, jumping rapidly from the coop to fence, fence to trees.  It turned out the water pressure on the hose was roughly equivalent to a 60 year old with prostate issues, but without the ability to be solved by the addition of Flomax.  I wish I'd been there - Sister's description involved frantic trips back and forth with buckets, Dad discovering the mess (probably hear the roar) and swearing vociferously, Mum's yelps of terror and glee, followed by acceptance that the fence and trees would have to go.  As they sat on the hill watching the fire, having given in to the inevitable, Mum asked "if I'd thought of this earlier, I would have bought some marshmallows".

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