5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (2)

Today’s photograph in the 5 day challenge tells a cautionary tale.

In 2002 I was renting a small room in a shared flat in the Morningside area of Edinburgh. One evening, while my landlord (who also lived there) was away on holiday, I lit a candle in my bedroom as I sat up in bed to read. Some time later I got up to brush my teeth, preparatory to the night’s slumber. I flung off the duvet cover, hopped out of bed and trotted off to the bathroom.

A couple of minutes later my other flatmate knocked on the bathroom door to say that there appeared to be smoke coming from my bedroom. I went out into the hall and the two of us went to investigate.

When we reached the door there was indeed thick black smoke seeping out from all round the door frame. I pushed open the door and, to my horror, saw a fire engulfing my duvet. Without realising it, when I had jumped out of bed a few minutes earlier I had flipped the duvet into the candle flame.

We closed the door and rang the fire brigade. They came quickly and successfully extinguished the blaze, but not before the entire room had been blackened and everything inside it covered in a thin greasy layer of soot. That night I slept in my landlord’s bed, relieved that he’d been away when I’d set fire to his house. The following day I cleaned the walls of the bedroom and prepared the room for repainting.

A few days later the room was freshly painted in white (which was much nicer than the dark blue it had been originally) and all that remained of the fire was my burnt and buckled belongings and a whiff of smoke.

During their excellent work, the fire brigade had removed my burnt mattress and left it outside in the gutter to be collected by the local Council. It is this reminder of my folly that I have chosen as my photo for day 2 of the 5 day challenge.

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve (2): a burnt mattress offers no further rest to the weary in an Edinburgh gutter, 2002

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve (2): a burnt mattress offers no further rest to the weary in an Edinburgh gutter, 2002

This event put me right off candles but I’m sorry to say it wasn’t my last brush with the fire brigade. A few years later, while renting a flat in Aberdeen, I stupidly laid a teacosy on top of a lit hob and wandered off into another room oblivious of what I’d done. When the fire brigade came they gave me a bottle of water and let me sit in the fire engine, which was very exciting.

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20 thoughts on “5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (2)

  1. Oh my. It can happen so fast can´t it! I had a similar experience with a candle too close to the curtains at a Christmas dinner at my house. Fortunately the smoke alarm went off and we got the fire out without having to call the fire department. (Who were located just behind us) Other than a ruined curtain and table mat, all was well. I am much more careful with candles now.

    • That sounds like a lucky escape, Darlene. I hate to think how quickly curtains could go up in flames and the fire spread to other soft furnishings. You do have to be very careful with candles and I prefer not to have them now, although they give a lovely cosy glow.

  2. Gosh, Lorna, that was a close shave. It goes to show how careful we should be with candles – they’re the source of many such fires apparently! You were very good indeed to repaint your room in time for your landlord’s return. What a scary experience. I think the sleeve has been unravelled again, just a bit!

    • I know Jo, I’m quite scared of candles now. It’s so easy to leave one burning unattended, especially if you think you’ll only be gone a short time. It only takes seconds though, for a fire to start. I was terrified of my landlord’s reaction to the situation. I think he’d have gone ballistic if he’d been there when it happened so repainting the room was very necessary. In fact we had spoken about it being repainted because it was horribly dark before, but he wasn’t prepared to do it and said if I wanted it done I would have to do it myself. It was much nicer after the fire. I think the sleeve did unravel somewhat that night.

  3. It’s funny you should mention fire. Just the day before yesterday, I was handed an aunt on the phone and then went into the kitchen with the phone tucked under my chin to help my husband with some task I now forget. Oh yes, he was cutting the pizza we’d just made into slices. The pizza tray was resting over half the stovetop. I had some veges for Mum boiling on the back element and was holding the pizza tray steady. Then, all of a sudden I realized my sleeve was busily trying to catch light from the back element. Fool, I’d just been resting my sleeve on the edge of it. Lucky it was a good quality polar fleece and not flammable as such or I’d have a very messed up arm right now at the very least, and lucky also that it didn’t melt onto me as it was the underside of my sleeve and so just melted onto the element – which caused the smell that alerted me. I did have to call the fire brigade once though when I was trying to make some candles for a gift. I’d seen ones moulded into teacups and thought I could do that easily for my cousin who has a tea addiction. Cute and all that. All fine until I spilled some melted wax onto the hot element by mistake. I like that quote too.

    • Trish, that’s pretty scary. I’m so glad you didn’t get your arm burnt, that could have been very nasty. I’ll bear in mind that spilling melted wax onto a hot element isn’t a good idea. Life is full of dangerous possibilities. It’s a good job I don’t know about them all or I’d be too scared to get out of bed.

  4. Just a cotton picking minute there gal …I want to know what your poor landlord said when he came back he he ! You have painted ( sorry about the pun ) quite a picture for us today Lorna .
    Cherryx

    • As I recall he was pleasantly surprised by how nice the room looked in white rather than dark blue. My other flatmate tactfully played down the fire and how bad it had been (by that time I had thrown out burnt clothes and stuff that had melted in the heat) so I think my landlord wasn’t aware of the severity of it. He was a nice chap but he could get quite angry about things, so it was best to keep him in the dark.

    • Oh no! That sounds potentially dangerous, I’m glad the teacosy/toaster combo hasn’t resulted in any disasters so far. We had the fire brigade do an inspection a couple of years ago and they pointed out that the toaster shouldn’t be kept underneath overhead fitted cupboards. Even though there’s quite a gap between the bottom of the cupboard and the top of the toaster, the underside of the cupboard had been browned, or I suppose toasted, by the heat from the toaster. We keep it well away from any overhead fixtures now.

  5. Oh my!!! I’m glad you are ok. Since those fires, are you more cautious now? Ever since melting two pots on my stove, I’m super vigilant, to the point of obsession, of making sure it’s off.

    • Thanks Julia, I would like to say I am more cautious although I’ve had some near misses with open flames since then. One thing that has changed is my attitude to candles, which I’m pretty paranoid about these days. I avoid having any in the normal run of things, but when there are some, such as at Christmas, I tend to watch them like a hawk. Sorry to hear about your pots, it can happen so quickly can’t it?

  6. Seriously Lorna…reading all your blog posts on the same morning (now 8 posts I think) has made me laugh so much…it is amazing you have made it through … fire, sea, bunks in the sky (practically), ceilings falling on you…whew…no wonder you like to decompress visiting tearooms and enjoying scones! What a treat to read about all this…

    • Your comments are so kind, thank you. We all have strange experiences we could relate, but we often think our own are less interesting than everyone else’s. I couldn’t be more pleased if you’ve enjoyed these, especially if they’ve made you laugh.

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