I blame Mary Poppins for my current obsession. And stories from my childhood about poor, motherless chimney sweeps that, although bleak, had the appeal of a fairytale with a happy ending.
I also blame the smell of woodsmoke on a chill, windless winter’s night soaring into the velvet air like a will o’the wisp. And magpies, high on rooftops, trilling like choirboys.
I can’t get enough of them. I have a crick in my neck from looking up as I walk along. I just can’t shake the feeling that in this era of clean energy and eco-friendly housing that fireplaces and their associated chimney pots will become a thing of the past. And I will miss them if they disappear completely. They remind me of heroines in Bronte novels warming their broken hearts by the fire and Dickensian heroes walking for miles in the rain to find work in the town who are taken in by a kindly innkeeper who allows them to dry their only coat by the fire while drinking mulled wine.
And of chimney sweeps with the faces of angels brushing the ashes out of grates to earn their daily bread.
Chim chiminey chim chiminey chim chim cheree
A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be
Chim chiminey chim chiminey chim chim cheroo
Good luck will rub off if I shake hands with you
You don’t see many chimney sweeps these days but in a neighbourhood like mine where many of the houses were built in the Victorian era you see lots of chimney pots.
And I think that’s lucky too.