This week I am coming to you with a little note about health and safety. When you first move into your new French apartment, I strongly advise that you work out where the fire extinguisher is. I can guarantee that it won’t be inside your apartment, but if you’re lucky there might be one outside in the corridor. If not, check by the lift. Everyone knows you shouldn’t take the lift when there’s a fire in the building, so this is obviously where the French would put an extinguisher.
I cannot cook. I only learnt how to make scrambled eggs in my second year (at 4am on a Thursday night/ Friday morning, from my housemate and an unidentified but goodlooking boy we found sleeping on our sofa). Before the Christmas holidays I bought an oven for thirty euros, mainly to bake jacket potatoes and cook frozen quiches, but since I rarely ever go near it one would have thought that the risk of a fire starting in my apartment would be pretty low. Oh how wrong one can be.
Feeling a little bored one night this week, a friend and I decided to make buttons to accessorize our cardigans. Planning ahead, we had bought some FIMO earlier in the day. FIMO is a type of clay that you bake in the oven to harden after moulding (you can see where this is going). So after spending two hours of painstakingly moulding cute little ladybirds and mermaids and Kronenbourg cans out of our clay, we turned the oven on, put the buttons in to bake and went back to our real Kronenbourg cans. Less than five minutes later the smell of burning reached my nostrils; I turned around to find that the goddamn clay was on fire inside the oven!
Thick black smoke filled the room within seconds and we had to open the three huge windows and hang outside of them in order to breathe. Luckily this particular friend is quite level-headed, so whilst I was hanging out of the window coughing, eyes-bulging and yelling ‘FUUUCK’ he was thinking about how to actually put out the fire.
Once realising that I didn’t have a clue where the nearest fire-extinguisher was and that I didn’t even have a fire blanket in the apartment, we decided to wait a minute in the hope that the fire would just die out after it had burned all the clay. This strategy definitely did not work. (Upon later inspection of the oven we found that it had huge vents in the side, letting in oxygen which kept feeding the fire.) So my brave friend ran to the oven, whilst crouching over to avoid inhaling too much smoke, opened the door and blew the fire out with one mighty breath.
The black smoke dispersed pretty quickly thanks to the huge windows, but we had to hang out of them for a good while, which wasn’t great fun as it was snowing at the time. I just remember being completely astonished that I had managed to set my oven on fire without even
attempting to cook.
My friend had to work early the next morning so went back to his place, leaving me to mull over whether it would be better to die of pneumonia or smoke inhalation.