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Four New Arrivals – Working Cocker Spaniel Puppies

Posted By paddy

I thought I would have a bit of a distraction from chimney sweeping and thatched animals this week; as we have had four new arrivals at home. Our two and a half year old Working Cocker Spaniel bitch Millie has had a litter of four puppies. They all arrived in the early hours of Thursday morning, with the first being born at half-past midnight and the last at 2.30 am. The Sire dog Franklin D. Roosevelt (Frank for short) is an eight year old brown Working Cocker Spaniel (Unlike Millie Frank actually works to the gun and by all accounts is very good at it!) There was on e bitch and three dogs, the first two out the bitch and a dog are black and the second two out are brown.

My daughters Emma and Katie have already named them all, they are in order that they were born with their birth weights:

Pip (Bitch, Black) – 342g

Widdle (Dog, Black) – 238g

Stanley (Dog, Brown) – 258g

Roger (Dog, Brown) – 325g

In just a few days they have all put on a significant amount of weight and are thriving. Millie has been a fantastic mum and is looking after them all very well! Millie allows any family member to pick them up and needless to say they all like cuddles.

I hope you enjoy the photos?

An Attractive Stove Swept in Weathersfield

Posted By paddy

I recently swept the flue of this rather attractive wood-burning stove in a house in Weathersfield. I’m not actually sure what make of stove it is? Perhaps if any of you out there in the ‘Blogosphere’ know the make and model please do let me know! 

 

 

 

 

I also cleaned the glass in the stove which had become very badly tared up. The secret to not taring up your stove glass is to always burn the stove hot which will keep the glass nice and clear. Never close-down completely the primary air controls of your stove as this will lead to incomplete combustion and taring of the glass and your flue lining; this can also lead to a risk of tar blockages forming and potentially a chimney fire. With the controls open and plenty of oxygen going into the stove the glass will automatically self-clean and stay nice and clear.

A Pair of Thatched Animals: Rooks or Ravens?

Posted By paddy

Well I thought it was time for some more thatched animals and how apposite this photo is of two arch chimney blockers. The curse of every home owner and chimney sweep, members of the crow family. I think that these two looks like Ravens, although they could just as likely be crows or Rooks? It is getting towards that time of year where members of the crow family (Latin name: Corvidae), start thinking about nest building. At this time a nice warm chimney provides a tempting base to build a nest. They do this by continually posting twigs and any other suitable material they can find down the chimney, until it can completely block the whole flue and present a stable platform for the nest at the top. A lot of effort is then required from the sweep to remove the nest from the chimney, and not whilst the birds are nesting. So a strange choice to have as thatched animals on any chimney?

I’m thinking that these two are Ravens and put me in mind of Odin the chief Norse god and his two Ravens Huginn and Muninn. In old Norse they are: Huginn (thought), and Muninn (memory). Both birds reportedly fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring information to the god Odin. Huginn and Muninn are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources: the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the Third Grammatical Treatise, compiled in the 13th century by Óláfr Þórðarson; and in the poetry of skalds. The names of the ravens are sometimes modernly anglicized as Hugin and Munin.

In the Poetic Edda, a disguised Odin expresses that he fears that they may not return from their daily flights. The Prose Edda explains that Odin is referred to as “raven-god” due to his association with Huginn and Muninn. In the Prose Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the two ravens are described as perching on Odin’s shoulders. Heimskringla details that Odin gave Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak.

Migration Period golden bracteatesVendel era helmet plates, a pair of identical Germanic Iron Age bird-shaped brooches, Viking Age objects depicting a moustached man wearing a helmet, and a portion of the 10th or 11th century Thorwald’s Cross may depict Odin with one of the ravens. Huginn and Muninn’s role as Odin’s messengers has been linked to shamanic practices, the Norse raven banner, general raven symbolism among the Germanic peoples, and the Norse concepts of the fylgja and the hamingja.

 

Norse mythology aside there is additionally the famous poem ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Nameless here for evermore.

 

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—

This it is and nothing more.”

 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there and nothing more.

 

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—

Merely this and nothing more.

 

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;

Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—

’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

 

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

 

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

With such name as “Nevermore.”

 

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—

Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—

On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”

Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

 

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

 

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

 

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

 

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee

Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!

By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Sweeping in Wales – A Large Double-Sided Woodwarm Stove Swept in Wenvoe Village

Posted By paddy

I recently swept the flue for this rather attractive large Double-Sided Woodwarm Stove. This stove was in a house in Wenvoe South Wales. I spent two days in South Wales doing some sweeping work for friends and family in and around Wenvoe; a sort of bus-man’s holiday if you will. It actually made a pleasant change to do sweeping work in a different area. As you can see from the photos this stove burns very well, so much so it immediately attracted someone who wanted to warm themselves and have a sleep in front of a friendly fire.

Wenvoe has been the center of thriving a farming community for centuries, and indeed a number of the properties a I swept for were large farm houses or converted barns. The village originally developed around the parish church of St. Mary, which can be traced back to the twelfth century with the adjacent locality now being a conservation area. Wenvoe is recorded as having belonged to the De Sully, le Fleming and Malefaunt families in the later medieval periods. After being escheated to the crown the castle of Wenvoe belonged successively to the Thomas, Birt and Jenner families. Major development occurred in the 1770s but much of this was obliterated by a fire in 1910. Some medieval or earlier fortification is also known to have existed in the wooded hillside at Wrinstone.

Local attractions include:

The St Lythans Burial Chamber (WelshSiambr Gladdu Lythian Sant) is only 2 km (1¼ miles) west of Wenvoe, or about 4.5 km (2.8 mi) by road, past the village of S Lythans (WelshLlwyneliddon). The St Lythans Burial Chamber is a single stone Megalithic dolmen, built around 6,000 BP (before present) as part of a Chambered long barrow, during the Neolithic period.

The Tinkinswood Burial Chamber (WelshSiambr Gladdu Tinkinswood) is about 3.5 km (2½ miles) north west of Wenvoe, near the village of St Nicholas (WelshSain Nicolas), or about 6 km (3¾ miles) by road towards Bonvilston (WelshTresimwn). Tinkinswood is a more extensive cromlech than St Lythans, which it may have once resembled, and was constructed during the same period.

Between the St Lythans and the Tinkinswood Burial Chambers lies Dyffryn Gardens (WelshGerddi Dyffryn), the estate to which both burial chambers once belonged. Dyffryn Gardens is a collection of botanical gardens located near the village of St. Nicholas. They were selected by the British Tourism Association as one of the Top 100 gardens in the UK.

Another Birds Nest Removed – A Monster This Time!

Posted By paddy

Last week I attended a customer who had just moved into a very old farm-house just the other side of Hempstead. The new occupier informed me that the property had stood empty for a long time before they had purchased it. By all accounts the previous occupant had not used the two very large inglenook chimneys for a very long time.

Both these chimneys had a hood and register plate configuration and both came with two inspection hatches each. However, this is were the good news ended, both chimneys which were in excess of 10 meters tall and 2 meters wide were completely full of nest material from top to bottom. To complicate meters and make the nest removal more difficult, the inspection hatches for both register plates were very small indeed and were as one plate was reasonably accessible at eye level, the second plate was below hip level.

In both instances I was able to clear the nests using a combination of the pigs tail tool and rods, and power sweeping with the metal flail. The flail is very good at breaking up the interlocking integrity of the nest, whereas the pigs tail is very good for latching on to the nest material and pulling it down the chimney. It was then a process of physically dragging the twigs and other material through the small inspection hatches and carrying it outside in trugs. One of the photographs shows this very process, with a portion of the removed nest having just been pulled through the register plate.

The customer requested that I put all the removed nest material just outside the house on a patio. As you can see there was rather a substantial amount of this, as it formed a small mountain over 6 feet in height. Needless to say it took me a whole day to clear both chimneys and that was working consistently without a break through the day. A monster effort I think you will agree? I certainly slept well that night!

A Thatched Animal Having a Stretch – A Flexible Cat Stretching on a Chimney

Posted By paddy

How about another thatched animal? Carrying on with the recent theme of cats, here is another picture of a thatched cat. Unfortunately I can’t remember where this thatched cat was; one thing is for sure he certainly is having a good stretch on that chimney.

So why do cats stretch so much? If there were an Olympic event for stretching, cats would win gold. They’re constantly stretching their muscles, likely for many of the same reasons that people do. What are the main reasons for this? Andrew Cuff, a postdoctoral researcher of anatomy at the Royal Veterinary College in London reports that “basically, it feels good and increases blood flow”.

Cats sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, about twice as much as people do, according to Rubin Naiman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Arizona; when humans sleep, the brain paralyzes most of the body’s muscles to prevent people from acting out their dreams. The same thing happens to cats during catnaps, which prevents the cat from sleepwalking off the sofa or wherever it’s snoozing. Once the cat wakes up, the stretching begins.

Cuff went on to suggest that, “Cats stretch to get their muscles moving again after periods of inactivity, whether they’ve been sitting still or sleeping. When a cat is sleeping or relaxed, its blood pressure drops, the same is true for people, he added. Stretching can help to reverse that. “As you stretch, it activates all of your muscles and increases your blood pressure, which increases the amount of blood flowing to the muscles and also to the brain. “This helps wake you up and make you more alert.”

As the muscles start moving with each stretch, they also flush out the toxins and waste by-products that build up during periods of inactivity. For instance, carbon dioxide and lactic acid can accumulate in a cat’s body, but stretching can increase blood and lymph circulation, which helps to remove the toxins. What’s more, stretching readies the muscles for activity. If a mouse scurries by or, let’s be honest, a spider if we’re talking about house cats, the cat will be prepared to pounce if he or she has already stretched its muscles. “It’s good for them to be ready to go at any instant,” Cuff said. “Whether it’s a snake, a feather or something on TV, as the case may be with cats.”

I found this rather apt cat Poem on the web, called Catalog by Rosalie Moore

Cats sleep fat and walk thin.
Cats, when they sleep, slump;
When they wake, pull in–
And where the plump’s been
There’s skin.
Cats walk thin.

Cats wait in a lump,
Jump in a streak.
Cats, when they jump, are sleek
As a grape slipping its skin–
They have technique.
Oh, cats don’t creak.
They sneak.

Cats sleep fat.
They spread out comfort underneath them
Like a good mat,
As if they picked the place

And then sat.
You walk around one
As if he were the City Hall
After that.

If male,
A cat is apt to sing on a major scale;
This concert is for everybody, this
Is wholesale.
For a baton, he wields a tail.
(He is also found,
When happy, to resound
With an enclosed and private sound.)

A cat condenses.
He pulls in his tail to go under bridges,
And himself to go under fences.
Cats fit
In any size box or kit;
And if a large pumpkin grew under one,
He could arch over it.

When everyone else is just ready
To go out,
The cat is just ready to come in.
He’s not where he’s been.
Cats sleep fat and walk thin.

Large Birds Nest Removed on the Audley End Estate

Posted By paddy

Last week I attended a large property on the Audley End Estate where I was booked to sweep three large open fires and a large Clearview Wood-burning stove. Everything was fine until I started to sweep the chimney in the main sitting room. There I found that the Rooks had been busy over the last year, or more likely a number of proceeding years come to that! From three meters from the bottom of the chimney right to the top there was a compacted birds nest. Compacted more so because although the chimney was 11 meters high, it had a relatively small diameter of flue.

I used a combination of a pig’s tail and rods, and power sweeping with a metal flail to remove the nest and I had all the material removed within an hour and three quarters. Fortunately for me at times during the sweeping process, I was able to dislodge large sections of nest in one go, which dropped down the chimney in big clumps. All in all I removed 10 and a half large trugs of material; which included twigs of various sizes, feathers, one mummified bird and lots of soot and tar, without making any mess. A job well done I felt. I recommended that the owner have a pot and anti-bird cowl fitted to the chimney stack to prevent similar nest building in the future.

An Aga Little Wenlock Stove & a Chimney Full of Tar

Posted By paddy

Linking in quite nicely with my last blog before Christmas (the sweeping of a small Coalbrookdale stove), this week I solved an issue with successor the Aga Little Wenlock. The Aga Little Wenlock is frequently a tricky little blighter to sweep; this is because usually it is not possible to simply drop the baffle. Sometimes if the baffle is not warped it can be dropped without dismantling the rest of the interior components of the stove. However, this is not usually the case, and the poor sweep has to take out all the internal components before being able to access the flue mouth. These internal components include 2 x small top metal baffles, 4 x side ceramic bricks and the large rear ceramic brick – The components are removed in this order and can be quite fiddly to take out before the large metal top baffle can be dropped. The large metal top baffle is dropped by sliding it fully forward and tilting it slightly. Phew what a palarva!

On this occasion, a stove which I have swept previously on a number of occasions, was easily dismantled in no time at all. The main top baffle dropping out effortlessly. However, when it came to sweeping the flue I found a great deal of tar deposits just sitting on top of the main baffle; a very suspicious sign, particularly as when I had swept the stove the year previously it had not produced any tar, only fine soot. Immediately I was aware that something had changed in the intervening year. As the stove and flue appeared to be in excellent condition, which meant that the tar must have been the result of the way the customer had been burning the stove in the intervening period. I determined to talk to him about it once I had completed sweeping the flue and cleaning the appliance.

I considered the best way to sweep this problematic chimney was to power sweep it using liner rods and brush. I did this and found that after every three rods (the chimney was 9 and a half meters tall), the stove was full of tar deposits and had to be cleaned out manually using a large trug and small shovel. I carried on this process until the entire flue had been swept and I had removed one and a half trugs full of tar from the stove. I was then able to tidy up and finish cleaning the stove using the vacuum before putting it back together again. Upon discussing the operation of the stove with the customer I discovered that in the intervening year he had altered his burning habits. He had started using a lot more coal and had taken to stocking the stove up prior to bed time and closing it right down to keep it in for the morning. The customer was tactfully and appropriately advised regarding the operation of his appliance and was pointed to the Guild of Master Sweeps ‘burn right campaign – https://www.guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk/burnright-information-guide/

Festive Folklore from the Guild of Master Sweeps

Posted By paddy

Christmas is a time where myths come into play – it’s all part of the fun – and the chimney retains a central role in setting the stage for festive celebrations. For how could Santa Claus enter a home and leave presents, if he couldn’t use a chimney?

Yet it’s not always been the case that Santa plopped down down a flue with cheerful aplomb – a merry plump gent with snow-white beard, ruddy cheeks and garbed in red.

In fact, it was American writer Washington Irving who came up with the notion of Santa tumbling down the chimney with gifts for youngsters. In his satire, ‘Knickerbocker’s History of New York’ (1809), Irving took a dig at Dutch immigrants in the New Amsterdam. His satirical aim was those obsessed with the Dutch heritage of the city. The character he presented was a Dutch burgher version of St Nicholas, smoking a clay pipe with an elfin appearance: –

‘…in the sylvan days of New Amsterdam the good St. Nicholas would often make his appearance in his beloved city of a holiday afternoon, riding jollily among the tree tops or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites’.

The character’s original Dutch name of ‘Sinterklaas’ was Americanized as ‘Santa Claus’. The idea of Santa coming down the chimney himself (rather than just chucking presents down) was later popularised in the poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ by Prof Clement Clark Moore in 1823 with cartoonist Thomas Nast giving Mr Claus his sleigh, his reindeer and depicting him as a jolly big chap.

St Nicholas, the original inspiration behind the character, lived in the 4th century, in what is now modern-day Turkey, as the Bishop of Myra. He became the patron saint of children, as well as (eventually) Amsterdam and Moscow. One legend says that he put money through the window of a home to help a poor family whose daughters faced prostitution. As chimneys became commonplace, the tale adapted over the years as it became popular, to see the saint dropping money down the flue. Dutch children began leave shoes by the fireplace, as the legend evolved, so that the saint could put gifts and sweets down the chimney and fill the shoes as part of the celebration of the Feast of St Nicholas. The tradition was carried to the New World of America with Dutch emigrants and that is how Irving, as above, came to be involved in the development of the tradition. A tradition which later saw Santa evolve further such as with the famous Coca Cola promotion of the merry red gent in the 1930s.

Santa wasn’t always big, however. In the 19th century, the Sinterklaas character was somewhat small in stature. And there were similar characters who no doubt influenced the literary tradition around Winter celebrations. That was especially true when it came to the chimney and fireplace. There have been endless myths about witches, goblins and fairies entering a home via a chimney, especially during Christmas festivities. The brownie was one such mythical creature, said to help with household tasks at night – leaving when morning came by disappearing up the chimney.

A precursor of Santa Claus could arguably be the ‘Belsnickel’, a wild man with a whip which, according to German folklore of Pennsylvania in the 19th century, frightened bad children and rewarded good youngsters. He was darker in appearance and of nature than Santa, but would still use the chimney at midnight to leave gifts in a stocking. His name means ‘furry Nicholas’.  Belsnickel echoes somewhat another character known in the Lowland countries during Winter celebrations: Zwarte Piet. His myth presents him as rather harsh to naughty children and the character itself, with a blacked-up face, is somewhat controversial. Odin, the Norse god, was also alleged to enter homes via chimneys during the Winter solstice. All of these characters have influenced the Santa Claus we know today – and the chimney has always been the stage for the storytelling.

Whether it is Santa Claus or Sinterklaas, goblins or a wild man – the chimney holds a mystical allure during the festive period. The darkness inside the structure, connecting the home to the outside world, speaks of mystery and intrigue, which comes alive as part of celebrations for Christmas. And that is why chimney sweeps also have a near-mythical status in the Winter literary tradition – the difference being, of course, that they are real!

Chimneys & folklore at Christmas

A Happy Christmas to all my Customers – A Snowy Fox Family

Posted By paddy

Can I wish all my customers a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas! I hope you all have a great time over the Christmas period and get everything you desire from Santa! Also it is time to make the most of your wood-burning stoves, open fires and inglenooks to create that real festive atmosphere.

Today Saturday 22nd is the last I am working before Christmas and I will then be having a much-needed rest with the family. Fantastic!

I will next be working in the New Year; starting on Thursday 3rd January.

My festive picture this year is a Vixen and her cubs walking across a snowy thatched roof. A very festive and Christmassy picture I think you will agree!

Have a great Christmas one and all, and happy burning!

Paddy & Claire

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