Goodbye to an old friend…

When I needed to light the pilot light, I had to lie on the kitchen floor, unscrew the front plate and light the flame with a long match.

It is over 27 years since we moved into our lovely Pinks Barn here in the Cotswolds. We almost didn’t move in at all ­­– within hours of unpacking the removal van, we had to leave as there was an enormous amount of gas in the eve spaces! That was also the day the boiler was condemned by the Gas Board. It just happened to be the coldest May in years. 

After fighting my way through these disasters, I realised that I might have been the luckiest girl in the world. Our lovely builders were shortly starting the damp proofing, sandblasting beams, knocking down walls and refitting the kitchen. It was the perfect moment to fit a Rayburn. It would keep the barn warm, I could use it for cooking, and it would take up to 20 radiators. Before our rat could run up a drain, I had a Wedgewood Blue Rayburn fitted in the kitchen and I was in heaven. I just loved my Rayburn. I liked cooking long and slow and I could even pile clean linen on the top to air through.

That was then and this is now, and sadly we knew the time had come to make some serious decisions. My long-suffering plumber had been driven to actually making parts for the Rayburn boiler and the ignition had stopped working completely. When I needed to light the pilot light, I had to lie on the kitchen floor, unscrew the front plate and light the flame with a long match. 

I think the old machine must have heard us talking to the Rayburn man because two weeks later it finally died… If I had any doubts about the decision to have a new Rayburn fitted instead of a traditional boiler, they were all dismissed after three weeks here without that lovely warm heat source in the kitchen – we were perished!

I cannot describe the muddle here at Pinks whilst the new machine was fitted. Drilling all the necessary holes for the new model meant getting through the barn walls, which are two feet thick. Work took a few days, so some evenings were spent sitting at the kitchen table with a view through the holes in the wall. I could write the date in the dust.

In the middle of all this chaos, I heard the sound of a bird squawking in the lounge fireplace. To my horror I realised that a crow had managed to fall down the chimney and was inside the wood burner flue. The poor thing was thrashing about and calling, but I could not get to him. The Rayburn fitters, or Rayburn Rescuers as they are now known, came to my aid, took the flue apart and out came the crow. We managed to catch him in a tea towel and took him to the water trough where he drank his weight in water, then flew away.

There is a twist to this story and a thoughtful lesson learned. Whilst my team of rescuers were at work, they discovered that my wood burner must have been leaking fumes for some years. A plate was loose on the back of the fire and we had no idea. If we had not rescued the bird, who knows what might have happened. The problem is fixed but we have bought a carbon monoxide detector and would urge everyone to do the same.

As I write, the new ‘Dartmouth Blue’ Rayburn is in position and fired up. I am looking forward to having a blitz on the house when the fitters finish today. Generally, I do not waste time cleaning behind things and my team of fellas now know the truth about me as they have been in all my kitchen cupboards, in the back of my vast airing cupboard and more. My mother-in-law once said that if I did not have so many hobbies, I would have time to clean the house. I replied that the only reason I had a Rayburn was so that I did not have to pull it out to clean behind it.

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