I am trying to seduce the log burner man. He is due here soon and I have set my honey traps.
I began with a banana at first light. With a paring knife I removed four little squares of its skin, like the windows on an advent calendar. Then I made a slit in its fibrous stem and slipped a cable tie through the slit and formed a loop and hung the banana just outside the kitchen window where the log burner man can hardly fail to notice it when I invite him, as I shall, to a cup of coffee in the kitchen and a cosy chat, either before or after he works on the log burner - or maybe even both. It's thirsty work fixing log burners.
The point of the banana is the wax-eyes. They perch on the advent windowsills and consume the banana peck by peck, tunnelling ever deeper into it, until eventually the tunnels join and the banana is a mere shell, an empty skin and the effect is as neat and beautiful as the birds themselves.
But the point is what the banana says about me. And what it says about me is that I am a soft-heart, one who cares for the little birdies in the cold of the winter. Will that start to melt a log-burner man? We shall see.
He's coming because of what I consider to be a design fault in the log burner he installed a few years ago. The log burner has started to smoke, presumably because it's sooted up. To de-soot it you need to remove the baffle inside the firebox.
To remove the baffle you need to remove two lugs that pass through flanges attached to the baffle.
To remove the lugs you need to turn them through 90 degrees. And to turn them through 90 degrees you need either greater manliness or better tools than I possess. Hence the summons to Mr Log Burner.
In a seduction it pays to attend to the little things. I've vacuumed around and inside the firebox. He will not be troubled by ash. I have laid a soft rug for him in front of the firebox to ease him in his work - and yes, the rug is striped like a tiger skin, but that is only because it happens to be my most suitable rug.
He'll bring his own tools no doubt, but I have placed to one side of the log burner the weak home-handyman tools with which I have tried and failed to address the problem. My hope is that the sight of their feebleness will cause pity to pluck at heart - assuming it is amenable to plucking.
Coffee, rugs, pity and bird-feeding, all are darts in Cupid's quiver. But there is also an arrow, the thing that I'm most confident will pierce the skin of Mr Log Burner. It is bread.
They say that, if you want to sell a house, bake bread in it, because the smell of baking bread is such an ancient reassurance, such an atavistic joy that even the toughest warrior dissolves. I believe these days it is possible to buy an aerosol of baking bread fragrance, but that is not the way of this seducer. I have baked bread.
Like so many I learned to do so during the lockdown and have now mastered the art of the mini baguette. This morning I baked four, and have just taken them from the oven and laid them all crisp and golden and seductive on the wire cooling tray.
Mr Log Burner can hardly fail to notice first the smell and then, when he comes in for coffee, the loaves themselves. And at that point what could be more natural than for me to offer him a well-buttered fresh baguette for morning tea and … oh, I hear his van on the drive. Excuse me. I shall report back.
Well now, it went like this.
No thanks he didn't want a coffee. And he'd brought his own soiled sheet to lie on while he worked. And he had the baffle out in a jiffy. And he reamed the bottom of the flue.
And he lit a little fire and it didn't smoke. And he said, "there, that's that then". And he was never in a position to remark on either my banana or my baguettes. And he didn't seem even to notice the smell of just-baked bread.
"Ah well," I sighed, as he was leaving. "Thank you and send me the bill."
"It's a design fault," said Mr Log Burner, "no charge."
Which is precisely what I'd been hoping to achieve.