By our early twenties, we all know not to set ourselves on fire. A sweeping generalisation you might say, but I would argue that many people recognise the negative connotations of being aflame from an even younger age. And I say good for them.
Despite my oft-espoused view that “the film version of Denethor’s flamey demise in Lord of the Rings is the only way to go”, the actual results of setting oneself on fire are almost always unpleasant. One’s favourite clothes may be spoiled, unsightly scars can be sustained, and there is even a possibility of fatality.
We know that we shouldn’t wear loose clothes around naked flames, not to overload electrical sockets, and that if you nod off with a cigarette in your mouth – which some people do, apparently - your bed, your spouse and your home will be destroyed in a terrifying inferno that will haunt your nightmares for the rest of time whilst you, the perpetrator, will survive (albeit in a lot of pain and very badly disfigured) to reflect upon your actions.
However, there are several ways to set oneself on fire that I’ve only learned about since moving to Edinburgh.
For instance, did you know that leaving shoes beside the front door when you come home is a creamy recipe for certain death? (We only do this, incidentally, because the letting agent told us to - the reason being that our carpet is that brand of rented accommodation beige which sucks in dirt like a sponge in an effort to lose us our deposit in cleaning bills at the end of the lease.) One can only speculate that secret research has determined that shoes often spontaneously burst into flames, possibly out of boredom, and it logically follows on that if they are left beside the door they will simultaneously endanger our lives and block our escape route.
Furthermore, open doors are phenomenally dangerous. We have known for some time that we aren’t supposed to keep our kitchen or bedroom doors open, because ‘mumbly fire hazard something about council inspectors’. This has never been explained to my satisfaction.
Then today I learned that using the hall as a communal area (we have no living room) is a fire hazard, on the grounds that we have a telly and a game cube in the corner and may trip over the wires. The wires, by the by, are also in the corner, tucked between the telly and a wall. Only someone who was really in the mood for tripping over stuff could fall over them.
However, I realise now that I have been hopelessly complacent with regards to combustion possibilities in the home. I feel fortunate to have seen the light before anything got too badly scorched, and am almost giddy with joy that now I can pass on the information to you, journal reader, to help you identify the fire hazards in your own life and prepare yourself accordingly. Good luck.