This morning I was abruptly woken by what I thought was a crashing noise. I listened for a few minutes to see if I’d really heard a noise or it had just been the tail end of a dream…nothing. I looked at the clock, it was a little after 3 a.m. Thinking everything was OK I began to drift off again. The next thing I was woken by a massive crash and some scraping noises. This time I new exactly where the sound was coming from. I’d heard very faint noises coming from the old fireplace in my bedroom about 2 days earlier. They were just the noises of some light debris trickling down the chimney, which happens from time to time after bad weather – or so I thought.
This morning there was no denying there was something big in there. The opening to the chimney had been blocked off by cardboard which had been taped into place and then covered with gloss paint. I remember laughing about this when I moved into the house when I saw how it had been cobbled together. Now I was feeling distinctly vulnerable having only a flimsy bit of cardboard between me and whatever terrifying beast was making all that noise. In the darkness of the room I imagined an enormous (man-eating) rat or a seething mass of (unusually heavy) spiders. That was it, I gave up on the idea of sleep and went up into the studio to await the sun.
At an altogether more reasonable hour, I went back to the bedroom armed only with a small craft knife and a towel (quite what the towel was for I cannot remember – perhaps I was going to hide under it? Or use it as a matador uses a cloak with whatever was going to come charging out at me? I don’t know, but it seemed vital at the time). I cut the tape around the cardboard and pulled, all the while ready to run the hell away from whatever may come out of the hole. The next moment the fireplace was overwhelmed by soot, brick dust and a huge amount of really old, filthy nesting material (I suspect mice nests mostly…eww!). Under the cardboard was a metal flap, partially shutting off the flue. I just couldn’t move this at first and started to panic that I’d have to listen to some poor, trapped creature die all alone in the chimney (funny how it went from being a terrifying, man-eating beast to being a “poor creature” in the blink of an eye!). I managed to push the flap up, twist it around and pull it back through the fireplace to reveal the chimney entrance. After it, slid out much fresher twigs, leaves, debris…and the beginnings of a small leg! It was the leg of a pigeon and the owner was obviously very much alive. It sent huge plumes of soot down the chimney with every flap of its wings. And boy, did that bird flap!
It was obviously very distressed so I decided to leave it to find its own way out into the bedroom, as I had to get to work. The cat, waiting excitedly outside the door, was miffed to say the least – she usually sleeps in my room while I’m at work and she just knew there was something interesting in there. I’ve just had a text from my house mate saying “1 bloody big pigeon now released & unharmed, 1 bloody big cat now furious & waiting 2 tell u all about it!”.
And why am I telling you all this? Because, what was the first thing that I did in my hour of need, at the height of my imagined terror? I sat in my studio at 03:30 waiting for the sun to rise, grabbed my sketch-journal and quickly illustrated how I was feeling at that very moment. That means the journaling/sketching habit is sticking! Hooray!!! (Let’s ignore the fact that when I get home I have to clean, disinfect and flea-spray (just in case) my bedroom, clean the carpet, block the flue again, sleep the night on the sofa (due to flea spray) and appease a cat who won’t be talking to me by then!). The journaling/sketching habit is sticking!