After our ‘set-building’ exploits of last week, home improvements have carried on at a pace in the Higginson household. The sitting room has been transformed and given what interior designers might term, ‘A warm and cosy log cabin feel’ theme. Yes, we have brought most of the stock of firewood inside and used it to decorate the room. We got sick of lugging it inside on a daily basis, and stacked across all the most draughty areas, it acts as an extra layer of insulation. Charming and effective. There is the slight problem of the abundance of insect life that now slithers out of the wood piles, but as we haven’t yet found a hibernating snake, I’m not too worried. It was also a useful trick for dealing with teenage tantrums. They’d spent Saturday morning squabbling so a few hours spent lugging wood in, soon knocked that on the head. There’s only so many times you can ‘accidentally’ swipe your sibling with a log before it gets boring and you decide that teamwork is the better option.
Heating your home with wood is all very well. Yes, it’s ‘green’ and yes, log fires are delightful, but it’s incredibly hard work. You have to chop it, stack it, move it and resign yourself to the fact that your house will be permanently coated in a fine layer of dust until the spring. Going out and leaving the stove is a trauma. You need to ensure that the fire is going at exactly the optimum temperature if you want to stand any chance of returning to a house that is even vaguely warm. And being the first one up in the morning is dire. At 6 am every day, I find myself raking embers and feeling like a Victorian scullery maid. Oh for the days of gas fired central heating!
Washing has become an endurance sport. The bathroom is so cold that undressing is an exercise in self-discipline. On the upside, the days of the teenage girls lingering in there for hours are gone. They’ve got showering down to a five minute art and if there was a ‘Taking your clothes off as fast as possible’ category in the Olympics, our kids would win. The same goes for using the loo, which is effectively outside. It’s not the kind of place where you retreat with the Sunday papers. It’s also directly visible from the road, so as you emerge, you get to wave ‘Hello’ at the neighbours. Nice. Still, as I always tell the kids, living like this is ‘Character Forming.’ This worked when they were smaller and less inclined to answer back but these days, they just look at me witheringly. And then threaten to include the worst excesses of family life in their memoirs. Writing about them has become a poisoned chalice. They are now only too aware of the power of the press and I am nervously awaiting the day when I open a newspaper to find that one of them is writing a column entitled ‘Living with Mother’ - no doubt I will be portrayed as some slightly demented ex-pat, who ruined their childhood by insisting they spend every weekend carrying logs inside.