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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Sheep! (and fire, but the sheep is the more important bit)
delirium happy

My parents own a cottage need the village of Crosthwaite in the south of the Lake District, and from Wednesday until Friday I was up there, trying to get away from it all and relax for a few days before returning to university on Monday. I mention this for two reasons. the first reason is to give a little context to the sheep photo that I took (the other (mostly sucky) photos that I took are also available, for anyone who cares).

The second reason is one little point that I want to rant vaguely about. I suspect that most of you will have been subjected, at some point in your life, to fire safety videos. These all seem to include a section showing just how quickly fire can spread, and how it gets out of control, and so on. They all seem to start with someone putting down a slight ember of a cigarette butt, and three minutes later, the entire continent of Europe is ablaze.

Given this, why is it so incredibly hard to get a log fire burning? You pack the damn thing with assorted flamable materials, introduce a flame, and three seconds later it's gone out. Try again, and the same thing happens. Try again, and the match breaks. Try again, and this time the firelighter catches, and it takes 5 minutes to go out. Now, I'm not a complete idiot: I try to set the fire so that I could just set fire to a bit of paper, and that would take the flame to a firelighter, then little, thin pieces of wood arund there, and try to have them burn a while to allow for coals or logs to catch fire. And I did manage to get the fire going in the end both times that I tried, but it takes real effort. Why is it that fires are so hard to get going when you want one, but so easy when you don't?

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They aren't so easy when you don't. It's just one of those things, like pregnanccy, where even if the risk is often low without taking precautions, it is still too high.

The second from the right has an oddly human face. I can't stop starting at it. It's freaking me out.

It's all about oxygen, innit? Or possibly in-sewer-ants.

I've had success with patented granparent technique of covering the open bit of the fireplace with a suitible flat object (eg. the remainder of last week's newspaper that hasn't yet been used as kindling) in such a way as to force the entire chimney's airflow to pass through the grate[1], causing the firelighters and assorted kindling to burn at a higher temperature, increasing the flow through the grate and creating all manner of recursive pyro fun. A couple of minutes of that usually does the job for lighting soggy coal and all but the most stubborn of logs. A couple of minutes of that also does a fantastic job of heating the remainder of last week's newspaper to the sort of temperatures that cause it to spontaneously ignite as soon as it is removed from the fireplace, so this technique is best used in small doses[2].

Nice sheep BTW.

[1] Clearly the fireplace design it the deciding factor on whether this is likely to work or not. A modern 'firebox' with surface-mount fireguard is optimal, enormous ye olde cottagy hearths somewhat less so. The fireguard helps stop the somewhat fierce updraft sucking the newspaper straight up the chimney, which leaves you with the scary decision of let-it-burn-scarily vs pull-it-out-and-set-fire-to-carpet.

[2] As you point out above, the flammability of a material increases somewhat exponentially with the undesirability of it actually catching fire. This technique therefore works by manipulating the risks and probabilities involved in favour of an unwanted combustion / second degree burns incident - physicsy explinations involving convection currents and oxygen density are a total red herring.

The sheep! photograph is excellent. I like your other photographs, too.

The fire thing is basically Sod's law, I suspect. Plus the thing about being cold and trying to start a fire making time go more slowly, while when you try to stop a fire from spreading on a hot, dry day, time goes faster.

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