Friday, 3 June 2016

The Tale of the Stove and the Shoe.

A couple of recent blog posts have been about fire and cooking and I intend to make a few more on this subject in the near future. Continuing the tradition that Friday posts are a little more “off-topic” I will relate the following story from my past.

I had recently brought a couple of those alcohol gel stoves that resemble a paint tin with a pot stand. These were a relatively new innovation back then. Hence, when visiting the family home for the weekend I took one with me to show my younger brother.

As many readers will know, these are fairly simple to use. You light the gel. You place the pot stand in place and heat your cooking vessel over the flame. Once you are done you replace the lid, which cuts off the oxygen and extinguished the flame. The one I had was more like a paint tin than the screw-capped example above.

Pretty foolproof, you’d think?

I show the stove to my brother, who is in his bedroom. He removes the lid and regards the clear gel inside.

“Lighter!” he demands from his friend.

The gel lights immediately and a tall flame rapidly grows. After a few seconds of admiring this, my brother asks:-

“How do you put it out?”

“You just put the lid back on.”

For some reason my brother decides that this does not mean to replace the tight fitting lid exactly as it was. What passes for logic in his mind tells him the concave upper side of the lid will be better at snuffing out a flame.

He throws the lid upside down onto the flame. Naturally enough the flame licks around the edges and ignites a large blob of alcohol gel that had adhered to the bottom of the lid, which is now uppermost. The flame notably increases in size as the lid is now on fire!

I wasn’t doing much at this point, stunned and amused by the stupidity of what he had done. The primary means for extinguishing the flame is itself now on fire.

My brother snatches up a shoe from the floor and uses it to swat at the flame. As he raises his hand for a second blow there is a burning circle of fire on the sole of the shoe.

I don’t recall how he actually extinguished the stove. All I can remember decades later was how hard I was laughing at him setting his shoe on fire.

The moral is, never assume something is foolproof. Fools are always greater than you think.

The Books