Friday, 17 August 2012

A Chimney Sweeps Tale




"What did I tell ya? There's the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it but the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps."

Mary Poppins and Bert have a lot to answer for in terms of how many of us view a chimney sweep. 
Young children, boys as young as four, were bought from their parents and the workhouse, trained and sent into a life of danger. The household chimneys and industrial chimeys all were climbed. Work was hazardous and some of these children became trapped in narrow flues, suffocating and even burnt to death!

My favourite book as a child was Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, where Tom the young boy chimney sweep falls into a river and is saved and transformed. Chimney sweeps were often portrayed as villains and not to be trusted, I have since discovered the book was highly derogatory towards race and religions and so it seems the morals of a sweep!

So I had (as is usual with me) a highly romantic perception.
 As some of  you know we are working on my Granny's house and have been all summer to get it ready so she can move back in and we are very happy to be moving in to help her. 

The gas fire in the living room, needed replacing and part of the task before putting in a new fire, was to get the chimney swept as it was very blocked.

After removing the old electric fire, a chimney sweep was booked and last Saturday, I was very excited to watch the process.

I said on Twitter last week,  I would be very disappointed if the knock on the door, did not reveal  a young boy, urchin style, with a sooty face and a "cockernee" accent!

I was disappointed, as on opening said door, a tall well spoken man walked in, in smart shirt and trousers. I did look past him to see if a sooty individual was following, but no here was our sweep! 
No twirling of a brush over his shoulder, no humming a ditty, just a strange looking hoover and a bag resembling a golf bag which was full of poles. 

I asked if I could take photos and he kindly agreed.



The sweep carefully laid sheets and  began to hoover the chimney I was not going to see the brush I'd imagined at all, it all seemed clinical and modern and not what I wanted to see.

I commented that Mary Poppins must have had a lot to answer for, the idea of somebody up on the roof, Mr Sweep told me that especially in homes belong to people from the US, when he arrived, the customer would point up to the chimney and go to close the door. They were under the impression he would be scaling the roof. He went on to say that in France and Scotland the sweep method is actually done from the top, a huge weighted brush crashes down from the top.

 Then out came the iconic brush and my faith was restored.
A soot container was placed in the opening, the brush was placed into the chimney, then the area around the hearth was covered leaving a hole that the brush pole protruded from. The chimney sweep added more poles to scale the passageway up and started to sweep!

He turned and pushed, twisting the brush up and up, the soot started to work loose, it sounded like raining sand, this went on for a minute or two and he said "Do you want to go outside to see the brush?"  I was off,  camera in hand, out the front and across the road so I  could see it.


This was the real thing, the only part of the process I had imagined to happen and did actually occur. 

The brush emerged, meaning the flue was cleared. The whole procedure had taken minutes. Back inside the sweep began to bring the brush down. Clean the soot box and remove the sheets, no mess, no real technical changes since the days of the urchins, but I was happy  to see the whole process and in the midst of lots of stressful days getting a house ready and packing up my home, this was a bright spot!

See my Silent Sunday this weekend for the best image which I wanted to keep for later!

17 comments:

  1. Ooooh exciting! I'm glad you go to see that brush in the end!!!x

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    1. It was so exciting Rhoda, I was a bit daft over it, you might say daft as a brush!!

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  2. If you ever think about a career change, I think chimney sweeping might be for you. Thanks for the smile this morning.

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    1. Hehe, you are welcome made me smile too. I think I am in the wrong business they do charge a lot! £45 to climb a ladder for instance! However I like the clean blogging life!!

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  3. All four of my children are or have been so excited when the sweep comes or we've swept the fires. Going across the road to see the brush woosh out of the top; especially as for us it's the start of the annual Christmas prep :) Such big kids aren't we! *sings* 'step in time, step in time'

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    1. It is really fascinating!! Oh no you have me singing now, that's not good for all who hear!

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  4. This brought back some memories as my Uncle David was a Sweep, and I used to help him when I was at school to earn myself some pocket money, that I used to spend on my climbing and caving gear.

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    1. Wow, I bet that was interesting, maybe he gave you the love of caving, all those narrow spaces!!

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  5. OOO that fireplace reminded me of my Nanna's she had the same one! Spent many happy hours playing cards with my lovely grand dad in the front of that, he was the one who taught me to gamble!
    We used to play for jelly babies & he never just let me win which is a lesson I passed on to my chidren they always earned their wins.

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    1. Aww glad you relived some memories and watch that gambling,amazing what I learn on this blog!!

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  6. Ahh, glad it brought back good memories Jane. Hehe gambling hey? The things I learn about my bloggy friends!!

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  7. I thought they were golf clubs!

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  8. I can't wait to get our chinmey swept now!

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  9. I don't want to get this kind of hard thing doing our chimney clean. I just know some chimney sweep service that is worth for their service.

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  11. My view of the chimney sweep is now officially shattered. But it does help that he looks like a dear old man. I must admit, I was one of those who believed that chimneys should be cleaned from the top. Apparently I’m living in the wrong country for that. Great post anyways. Cheers!

    Jannet
    Walker Contracting

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