Falstaff’s Fireplace

I think this piece of writing dates from between the Wars from the typeface and paper it was done on. I cannot say how old that fireplace is but there are references in the dairies of the Old Man as Jack Merry calls him as far back as the Fifteenth Century to a fireplace fitting its description.

Come in — the staff’s doin’ its annual cleaning of the Fireplace in the Pub. And a bugger of a job ’tis given the massive size of it! Of course, it could only be done after the workers from Local 243 of the Honourable and Ancient Chimney Sweepers Guild has cleaned all of our myriad chimneys. Yes, that does explain the bloody mess in the courtyard. . . . The late fall cleaning of ‘em is very much needed as we heat this old monster mostly with coal, except for the fireplaces. Yes, I agree, ’tis rather nasty stuff, but it works rather well with our century and a half old hot water radiators. As the Sweepers sing, ‘From the bottom to the top / Swepe chimney swepe / Then shall no soote / Fall in your poridge pot. / A good sausage, a good, / And it be roasted. . . .’

The best winter’s entertainment here in the Green Man building has for centuries been found in the Pub. Now, most of you will think first of the music provided by the Neverending Session musicians, but there’s ‘nother equally ear-catching group of entertainers — the storytellers who you can find here just about anytime of the day or night, particularly when it’s colder and nastier than a mountain troll’s breath outside. As we’ve told many a fine storyteller down the centuries, settle into the comfortable chair by the fireplace, pour yourself a mug of mulled wine, help yourself to the smoked salmon and biscuits, and we’ll listen avidly to what tale you’re telling this evening. . . .

But I’m here to tell you ‘nother story tonight — the story of that fireplace and that chair which has an honoured place beside it. Yes, you heard right. I’ll bet you never thought of the history of that fireplace as I’ve noticed that when you are here you pay rather close attention to the comely lasses in their low-cut blouses and tight skirts talking over by the Bar. Forget them, lad — You can’t afford what they want in exchange for their company. Even the Jacks here found that out! So get your mind out of the gutter for a while. . . .

Back when this building was built, the resident theatre troupe slept here — the rest of the building was unheated and winters in this city get bloody cold and damp to boot. It wouldn’t be for a few more centuries that the heating system and the present kitchen were added, so both keeping warm and cooking were done here where the Fireplace is. See the spit that spans most of it? There’s a sketch in our Library of a forty stone boar being roasted, with a plump goose inside the boar, slowly on the spit, and I’ve heard tales told of a deer or two from the Queen’s Wood being poached and roasted there. Now look carefully in the upper left hand corner — see where a lead musket ball took out a decent bit o’ brick? That was the shot fired by an under-sheriff in anger at one of the thespians who he said owed him money. We paid him off, as we do every time that the law gets heavy-handed — what choice do we have?

We usually have but a small fire burnin’ in it as it’s far too costly to keep a large blaze goin’, but ‘morrow eventide we’ll be hosting the annual party for the Sweepers Guild — part of our payment for their work — so they will be providing huge well-seasoned logs of oak, ash, and, for an aromatic smell, cedar. We will be providing the boar that will be roasted for a full day startin’ this eventide. And there’ll be a very large cauldron of mulled cider warming off to the right hand side of the fireplace! So join us ‘morrow eventide for a memorable feast! Now why don’t you go read some reviews, and then pop back before you go and I’ll tell you the rest o’ the tale…

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