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Winter fuel

There is perhaps no greater reminder that the Summer is coming to an end than the delivery of wood for the winter. Here is my stock of winter fuel that took two hours to unload off the road, where the merchant dumped it, into my cellar. It would have taken longer without the sterling efforts of Danielle and Anne, two neighbours who formed a ‘navette’ passing the logs from hand to hand across the road. Another couple of hours this morning to stack it all (badly). Now the house smells of the forest and my back is throbbing from the unexpected exercise.

I shared the delivery with a neighbour and we had a harder job getting the logs to his cellar as he has no opening onto the street as I do. So we had to bag it up and carry it through his dining room to the trapdoor. So here is just half the load, two cubic metres, just enough to completely fill the corner of my cellar, a mixture of hêtre (beech) and chêne (oak), which I told will burn well together. Interestingly the measure was the ‘stère’, a word I had not come across before. So between my neighbour and myself we ordered ‘quatre stères’. It seems the term applies only to firewood. The root is the Greek στερεός (stereos) meaning ‘solid’, introduced by Napoleon as a metric equivalent to the cord, still used in the US and Canada. Here is a site that explains the measure: http://www.bois-chauffage.net/stere-bois-chauffage.html.

It got me thinking about ancient measures and how we used them in writing, particularly fantasy fiction, to add  a sense of antiquity. Of course, it can be overdone and also confuse the reader. I have stuck to leagues (the distance one can walk in an hour) for distance and spans for measurements (the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when stretched out, about nine inches or 23 cm). Leagues are particularly helpful for estimating journey times in writing. It can be quite complicated making sure people manage to end up at the right place at the same time.

In France we are now approaching ‘La rentrée’, the time when everyone starts getting ready to return to work and school. In August a lot of businesses close down and things generally slow. In September there is a flurry of activity and sales in the shops to get things moving again. It’s an annual event and seems to work well.

Of course I shall continue to plod on with the writing regardless, happy to get a regular parking space back once the visitors have left. The first draft is finished (yes finished) and I have started on the second volume while continuing to edit the first. It’s with a couple of friends who have volunteered as beta readers. The next step (and the scary one) is to find an agent!

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