This morning I was standing by my lovely, warm, reliable (unless it runs out of fuel) Aga and boiling a kettle, and remembering a moment three weeks ago when we had just arrived in the cedar forests of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It was twilight, and we had spent some time threading the Land Rovers through the tiny track between the mighty trees to find somewhere to stop and camp. As we drove, we had spotted a troupe of macaque monkeys who were sitting in a silent circle and reminding me strongly of our Parish Council having one of its slower meetings.
We pulled up in a tiny clearing, and everybody but me disappeared rapidly into the cool depths of the forest to gather firewood or do anything else people need to do after a long drive. I offered to make tea and was left on my own with the clear scent of cedar, the distant glint of snow on the mountains seen through the tree trunks, and a camping stove that I was completely unable to manage.
I filled a kettle with water and approached the stove, which fell over. I put the stove back upright and put the kettle on it. The stove fell over again. I cleared a flat area and put the stove carefully back on it. Then I carefully put the kettle in the very centre of the stove. And the stove leaned slowly over until the kettle slid back onto the forest floor and tipped out most of its precious load of water. I took a deep breath, refilled the kettle, found a completely flat rock and set up the stove again.
All seemed good, so I put the kettle on the stove then realised that I hadn’t actually lit the stove. I took the kettle off, turned on the gas and struck a match, which immediately blew out. When I had a little thicket of spent matches lying at my feet I went to find a lighter, and used that. The stove finally roared into life and went up like a towering inferno. I slammed the kettle down on it and the flames licked up its sides until the kettle resembled a phoenix in its burning nest.
This couldn’t be right, so I turned the gas down. The stove went out. And I couldn’t find the lighter, which I had put down somewhere and didn’t discover again until the next morning. I went back to the Land Rover, and after a long search discovered the back-up lighter, which didn’t have much fuel in it and produced a tiny flame which was just enough to get the stove going again. I carefully replaced the kettle and soon we had lovely boiling water for tea. I took the kettle off the stove again and once more the flames went up with a whoosh and looked in the gathering dark like a distress beacon.
And this time I couldn’t turn the gas down. There was a lever, and a red knob, and I tried pulling, pushing and twisting everything I could reach with absolutely no good results at all, while the stove continued to flare up into the shadowy heights around me. At this moment everybody else arrived back from the forest, attracted to the light like moths to a lantern, and somebody competent turned the stove off.
So that is one of the many reasons I adore my Aga, it doesn’t do stuff like that. It is a lovely friendly cooker which always seems to be on my side. Unlike some I could mention.