Chim Chim Cheree

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.

Chimney pots.

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.

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19 thoughts on “Chim Chim Cheree

  1. We went to a children’s museum when I was back in the UK recently and they had a mock up of a Victorian chimney that young kids had to climb and sweep – tiny and terrifyingly dark. Apparently they went up barefoot to get a better grip and there was always a risk that when they reached the top, the mortar wouldn’t hold the chimney together and they would fall off the roof. Where was Mary Poppins when they needed her?

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  2. We have a fireplace in our library and I love it when we get it swept. I ALWAYS sing the song when the sweep comes in, which I’m sure makes him love me.

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  3. When I finally furl the sails and go ashore, I want to live where there is space to plant trees and heat the house with a wood fire. There is something in the human psyche that draws solace from real flame. Better even that a water view (right now in the depth of winter!)

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  4. Hi Selma,
    Unfortunately here in Queensland fireplaces have been banned from any new homes for a few years now. I love sitting around a fireplace, there is nothing like it I have never owned a house with a fireplace, so I have only experienced sitting in front of one on holidays.

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  5. I don’t think fireplaces have been banned throughout Queensland have they – maybe in Brisbane. I love fireplaces – always have – we had one in our little house as kids but never seemed to use it – a frightened possum came down it one night and scared the bejeesus out of Mum. The author of Mary Poppins was born in Maryborough (about 2 hours south of us) and every year they have a Mary Poppins festival with lots of men and women pushing large prams – I loved those books so much when I was a kid. Lovely photos Selma 🙂

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  6. I always remember my grandparents’ farm house … their fireplace also held the oven and the hot water boiler …. there was also a crane kind of thing to hang pots & pans from. Grandma did all her cooking on it.

    But … labour intensive!

    When the chimney needed sweeping, Grandad would cut down a holly bush and pull it through on a rope! And, everything tasted of soot for a month afterwards.

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  7. KATE,
    Can you imagine? it must have been terrifying for them. Life was so hard for children back then. I look at my son and wonder how he would have coped. And then there were those who worked down the mines. Just awful. They’re the children William Blake wrote about. Poor little things.

    HEATHER,
    I can just imagine you doing that. I’m sure the sweep has heard it thousands of times. I picture him with a very wry expression and you with an apron on clicking your heels. Haha.

    TUMBLEWORDS,
    Thank you so much. You always say the nicest things!

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  8. STAFFORD,
    You know what? You are right about that. Flame is almost a primordial thing. I see so many things that have been and gone and other things that will be dancing in the fire. There is something incredibly soothing about it. If you were able to live by the water as well it would be paradise. It’s all right to dream big, isn’t it? 😀

    MAGS,
    It’s a shame they’ve been banned them and you’re right – there is nothing like sitting in front of an open fire. It is extremely cosy. One of life’s pleasures!

    GABRIELLE,
    We had a possum come down the fireplace here. He was just a bubby too. We weren’t using the fireplace but we did have a huge torch up there looking for leaks in the chimney. We obviously gave him a fright – his little ears were wiggling like crazy. We turned off all the lights and he scrambled back up. It was so cute.

    That’s right – P.L. Travers was born in Queensland. I loved the books too. They were much better than the movie. I still have the box set. The stories are so good!

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  9. GERALDINE,
    So glad you liked it. I have convinced myself now that chimney pots bring good luck. Hahaha.

    TRAVELRAT,
    My grandparents house in Ireland was the same. They had that crane thing too. It was such hard work just to cook a meal. They made their own bread too. I get exhausted just thinking about how much they did. And you’re right – there was that sooty taste. Can’t have done us much good….

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  10. I adore your chimney pots! It’s the sort of thing that would capture my attention – such beautiful shapes, sitting up there in the sky.

    I love how you see, my friend. I don’t live in an old neighbourhood (for the first time in 20 years – I think I need to go for a walk in one.

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  11. After I read this I made a point of looking at roofs and I didn’t see that many or rather not that many of this type. Just another thing disappearing from the way things used to be.

    As for them using small children, I was horrified when I first started reading Catherine Cookson books, especially the ones of the victorian age using children in the mines. I always told my kids, see how lucky you are to be bron in the time you were? lol

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  12. I rarely see chimneys here in India. Hmmm is that why Santa does not bring us presents for Christmas? Or does he skip us because Air India sucks! But I do like chimneys a lot. And I can’t believe the memories that came up when I read the words ‘Mary Poppins’ – Manoj’s sister Sandhya was such a big fan of Mary that she literally cried when the movie ended – each time she watched it!!!

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  13. MELEAH,
    Fireplaces are becoming rarer and rarer these days. I know all that smoke is bad for the environment but it can’t be any worse than all the emissions coming from industry. On cold nights I just love seeing the wood smoke rise and curl through the sky. It’s gorgeous.

    TIPOTA,
    Once you start you can’t stop. I also have a thing about front doors. I think I need help 😆

    JENNIFER,
    I love how you see too. When I wrote this post I thought of you because I know you notice stuff like this too. I do love chimney pots. The best ones are in places like London. They are so beautifully built over there. One day soon I hope to get there and snap away at the chimney pots. People will think I’m mad but I don’t care 😀

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  14. MAGS,
    I think they’ve banned fireplaces in parts of Sydney too. Round where my parents live none of the new homes have chimney pots. The houses look bare without them.

    CATHY,
    Oh yeah. The children in those Catherine Cookson novels had it rough. Up chimneys, down the mines, in the fields all day. And then when they were old enough the Lord of the Manor had his way with them. It was a nightmare. Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it. Hahaha.

    ROSHAN,
    I guess it doesn’t get cold enough for you to have open fireplaces. You do get reasonably cold temps in the winter though, don’t you? What about the older parts of India – the houses built in the 1800s and so on. I wonder if they have chimneys. It’d be interesting to find out.

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