Bucket List #3

Metal Bucket

This is a galvanized bucket.  Light and portable and fairly sturdy.  The real benefit of this bucket it its ability not to melt if you put some hot ashes into it by accident.

You can carry coal into the sitting room for your fire in this bucket, so it doubles as a coal scuttle.  In the morning you can clean out the ashes in your grate.  Sometimes when you think the ashes are cold there are a couple of hot coals hiding in there just waiting for their chance to heat up again.  The disturbance  of cleaning out the fireplace gives them air, and they heat up again.  Anyone who has used a plastic bucket to clean out fires has come across this problem.  With this metal bucket you have no such worries.

I grew up in a house without a fire.  I suppose my parents were being ultra modern, rejecting the primitive technologies of the past.  When they built our house in Pinewood in 1966 they installed a piped gas fueled hot air ventilation heating system.  This is called a ducted warm air heating system.  Underfloor ducting carries the heated air around the house and blows it out through floor ventilators.  Instead of standing in front of a fire to warm up in winter we would sit on the ventilator.

Before going to bed as kids we would hold our pajamas over the vents and the air would blow them up and warm them.

Growing up in a house with no fireplaces has advantages.  We had the use of all four walls in every room.  We did not have to set and clean fires.  We did not have the need to clean chimneys and the problem of dealing with ash.

On the down side a fire is a very powerfully comforting feature.  There is a love of the fire programmed into our human DNA.  Mastery of the fire appears to be the skill that set man apart from all other animals.

Heat:  The fire gives you warmth.  Having a fire to keep them warm enabled humans to inhabit alpine and tundra environments.  The ability to exploit a wider range of environments helped the spread of humans and protected the species from local famines and disasters.

Safety:  Most animals fear fire.  The ability to command fire gave humans an advantage over large and dangerous predators.  On a smaller scale the smoke from fires helps drive away biting insects, offering some protection from diseases such as malaria.  On a psychological level it provides a comforting illusion of safety, and sometimes that in itself is enough for people to get by.

Food:  Once you have a fire you also have the ability to cook.  Cooking food allows you to extract more energy from a given amount of raw ingredients.  In certain circumstances cooking converts something that is poisonous into an edible and nutritious food.  Boiling can make water safe to drink and has a sterilizing effect on foods.  This ability to convert food more safely and more efficiently gave man an important advantage over other animals.

Light:  As early cave art demonstrates, primitive man used the ability to command fire to explore dark caves that were inaccessible without some form of artificial light.  A torch or a camp fire extends the day and provides more time for activities that make life easier, such as sewing clothing, flint knapping, basket making etc.

Quality of life:  A fire is also a dynamic piece of furniture.  Fire is mutable, the flames dance and change.  Long before we had television families would sit and gaze into the fire, and talk and sing and recite.  Home is the hearth as the saying goes.

Now I live in an old house, built in the 1840’s.  Originally there would have been a fireplace in every room, including the bedrooms.  It was the only way to heat a home in those days.  Over the years the fires have been replaced by central heating, and there are radiators in every room.  The only fireplace that remains is in the sitting room.

The kitchen is the beating heart of our house.  It is a place of fun and energy, noise and bustle, where all the action happens.  At a certain stage in the evening you want to begin the process of winding down, cooling down mental energy, preparing for sleep.  This transition involves the family focus moving from the kitchen to the sitting room.  Like primitive hominids we retreat to our cave and light the fire.





Turning the table


Painted pine table for sale.


It comes with a bit of baggage. Lousie and I bought this table when we moved into our house in Clontarf.  There were only two and a half of us back then in 1995, Louise was expecting our first child.  Originally it was a pale pine, varnished.  It has a flip top, so it can fit easily through doorways.  We also had a couple of bentwood chairs (unpainted, dark mahogany colour) one of which you can see in the photograph.

It is a solid table, and well used.  We raised three children and a dog around this table.  It was a large feature of our small kitchen at the time.  Later on we extended the back of the house, and were able to make use of a larger kitchen table.  This one went into the music room and was used as a study table or a toy table.  Over the years it changed.  The pale pine darkened in the sunlight to a rich honey hue.  It picked up little dents and scratches and scuffs along the way, like crows feet around a persons eyes.

It made the journey with us to Tipperary, but has languished somewhat on the sidelines.  It is not getting any use.  So Louise decided that this would be her first project in her new furniture painting business.  She filled in the accumulated dents in the pine and sanded it down where necessary.  Then gave it a good set of undercoat and overcoat treatments with some really expensive paint (Farrow & Ball).

Then she learned how difficult it is to take an attractive photo of an object;  the importance of staging, so that people get a sense of the size, elegance and colour.  How to upload media to websites, the language descriptors that work, selecting a price point and so on.

Up it went for sale and less than a week later, the call has come, and the table is going to a new home.  A lovely lady who is downsizing to a smaller home is looking for a kitchen table.  So our old friend has come full circle and will take pride of place in the most important room in the house again.

Do objects have memories?  Can the accumulation of experiences somehow imbue an object with a character beyond it’s simple functional presence.  Can a table have an aura?  If so then this table has good karma.

Do you have a beloved old piece of furniture that deserves a new lease of life?  If so, make contact and perhaps Louise can help.

For those of you who spotted the cushion, yes it has a story too.  It was hand sewn by my daughter for her home economics examination last year (she got an A of course).  It says “Dream Big Dreams”.  I don’t know if that is for sale, but if you really, really have to have it……….

Perhaps the World Ends Here; by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.