It was three days before Christmas, a decade ago, when I decided to take the sledge-hammer to our house.
Several years earlier, as a young couple, we’d moved into a lovely Victorian home. It was, of course, replete as so many are with the glory of the seventies: false walls, artex, and the most appalling Southfork mini-ranch fireplace. It had irrtitated the hell out of us for years.
And so, that night, when enthusiasm lay deep and crisp and even, fuelled by Christmas spirit and rather more distilled spirit. I picked up a ten-pounder and set to work with the wall.
You see, there was bound to be an original staircase behind the attractive, artexed false aolcove. Underneath that appalling gas-fire-surrounding erzatz-Colorado carbuncle, we knew a Real Fireplace must exist.
And lo, it came to pass, as the cement dust fell like snow on the festive decorations, that there were things behind the rubble. Wonderful things.
It took us the best part of a year to complete, and that was just removing the dust. But further investigations found the brick bread oven, the remains of the range, and the old spiral cottage stairs with their original plaster and paint.
Now, we’ve replaced the fireplace and lined the chimney, and logs crackle when the family’s home. The old stairs, restored, is stacked with the seasoned hardwood fruit of our local tree surgeon and makes a wonderful log store. And most magnificently, every Christmas we have the cosy ritual of warming ourselves while hanging up the stockings for Santa to come down a real chimney.
It’s worth a bash sometimes. Enjoy the pictures.