Peter’s Patter - Ashes to Ashes

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The decision has been made. The O’Donnell household is going green and getting rid of our coal back boiler.

The coal fire will remain as my wife cannot bear to part with it but it will no longer do our heating or hot water, just warm us up when the power goes off at Christmas or when we are feeling romantic and want to sit in front of the fire watching the logs crackling in the candlelight. No more dodging the exploding coal though!

It is sad in a way as we have fond memories of cuddling round the open fire in our freezing living room when we first moved in all those years ago.

Since then we have had new double glazing, loft insulation, under-floor insulation, cavity insulation, even more loft insulation and finally we stuck sixteen solar panels on our roof so getting rid of the coal was always going to happen.

We were talking with my sister-in-law last month and it turns out her gas bill for the month is the same as our coal bill for the week so that was the final straw.

Once lit, a coal fire looks magical, which might be why we love it so much, but there are plenty things that I won’t miss one little bit.

Does anyone remember ‘It’s a Knockout’, the old TV programme where teams competed in ludicrous events which mostly involved trying to transport a large quantity of coloured liquid from one place to another without spilling any?

Well, emptying the ashes in the Western Isles is just like that as you carry the ash pan through the house to the wheelie bin outside whilst trying to avoid spilling any on the rug, carpet or your clothes.

You might just manage the first two but on a windy day there is no way to avoid getting covered in the stuff.

I will also save a fortune on rugs as we go through at least one a year as they are either stained with coal dust or covered in coal burns.

We used to claim through our insurance at the beginning but eventually stopped as we were going through more rugs than Aladdin.

The biggest plus will be coming home to a warm house rather than coming home to put on a fire, although my wife will miss this the most as she insists on doing the fire as she doesn’t trust me with matches.

I certainly won’t miss cleaning out the ashes or climbing on the roof to sweep the massive chimney we have.

On the downside though, I will miss going into Macaskill’s for my coal as the craic was always great. Sorry boys!