Saturday, 2 September 2017

I Set Fire To My Table

Back in the height of summer, you know, when the clouds were lowering over the horizon just as the school holidays started, my friend Emily and I plotted a small party, mainly to celebrate her birthday, which is today (Happy Birthday, gorgeous), but also to continue the warming process of my new home.

I've moved into my home gradually.  Dawn downstairs reminded me that it's been five years, near enough, since I started buying it.  I shared it for three years in a system called 'nesting' (more of this one day, maybe) and for the past 18 months, it's been all mine. 

Wanting to ensure we had at least one guest, Emily and I created Hugh Jape, a mannequin dressed for the occasion in one of my son's hand-made coats and draped in fairy lights.  We stood him in welcome, at the bottom of the stairs, calm as anything.  We discussed food, seating, dancing, ice, candles.  We discussed my new table, the quality of its oak grain, and the need not to damage it with water.  We protected it with a plastic table cloth.

What happened to my table halfway through the party was entirely my doing.  It involved tea lights and the careless placement of a packet of poppadums (Waitrose). Back in the 70s at school, we used to shrink crisp bags in the oven and wear the miniaturised Smiths Salt and Vinegar or Cheese and Onion packets as badges.  The bag of poppadums didn't shrink - it burst into flames.  The plastic cloth underneath quickly followed suit.

My first reaction was to try to put out the flames with the second pack of poppadums (Waitrose). Maybe one guest brought both packets (thank you, and I'm sorry).  I completely forgot about the fire triangle (heat, fuel, oxygen) in my haste.  Fortunately, Mike hadn't, and he calmly poured water (sparkling, natch) on the table top fire.

Afterwards, Mike said that what'd come to hand first was lemonade, but that he'd had enough time to choose sparkling water.  I was glad about that, as the smell of burning sugar added to burning poppadum and plastic would've lingered.

As it is, the smell is nowhere to be smelt today and I am urged, once again, towards gratitude: I'm so grateful that the party didn't end in a panicked alarm, that the table isn't damaged, even though in the few minutes of Ted and Mike doing the clearing up and re-dressing-the-table-in-a-duvet-cover-process I had reconciled myself to its imagined imperfections.  

Yes, the cloth with its gaping charred hole had to be thrown away (along with the now-laminated poppadums) but what of it?  What of the small losses in comparison to the warmth of my calm-as-Hugh-in-a-crisis friends who have seen me through to this gift of a place, this sanctuary of rest and creativity.

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