The Chimney sweep

He comes once every year or every other year, but he seems familiar.

He is very tall indeed, enormous shoes, with a surprizingly high-pitched voice. He has a calm, polite manner and assured me he would not come too near me when he noticed the plaster on my left arm – I had a broken wrist at the time – assuming that my right hand and arm were pretty strong, too, for being used more than normally. To be strictly truthful, the latter point was really my contribution to the conversation. He did see the point, though. He did a good, clean job in the living-room while discussing general family problems with me – he has a wife, teen-age children and a dog. He seemed a good family man, assuming full responsibility for everybody.

When we moved on to the Rayburn in the kitchen, the bread was just ready to be taken out of the oven. He gave me expert help with this. The flue above the Rayburn had not been cleaned out for three years, and I admired how he managed to remove the soot and bits of chimney lining, so he explained to me, from a very small opening, guiding it by means of a newspaper shaped like a funnel into a bucket which quickly filled up..

I nearly forgot to offer him a cup of tea, not being anglicized enough yet, and made him one out of Swiss almond flavoured tea which my husband had brought back from his last skiing holiday. He remarked about the pleasant flavour, a remark I passed on to my husband, soothing him like that when he tried to reproach me for using his tea for the chimney sweep. While he was having his tea, he told me about Indians and Pakistanis who apparently make their tea in a most peculiar way – he was given salt instead of sugar …

He charged a modest sum for his services. In return I passed his name on to our neighbours. My husband proposes to do the Rayburn himself next year. I think I would rather have the chimney sweep …