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Swept off her feet.

SWEPT OFF HER FEET

She appears in black costume, "skinhead chic" minus the chains, long brooms in hand, her face hidden by a high tech gas mask. This is her working uniform; the tools of her trade. Quickly, with catlike dexterity she disappears up a ladder to a chimney to free it of carbon and creosote, safe for another year.

Behind the mask and witch-like costume lurks a stunning Danish blonde, Ingrid Pearson, 35, fluent in English, German and, of course, Danish. She is the wife of Conrad, a cop, mother to twin boys, chimney sweep and one-time bricklayer.

Bricklayer?

"It was my childhood dream, so I took a five-month course at Red River, then took specialized training in building fireplaces and wood stoves. I enjoyed it so much, I went into business. It gave me a great deal of personal satisfaction. I still do it."

This is the explanation in our first interview, by phone. A subject this fascinating needs more research, so we arrange a meeting over lunch. She appears, playing the part of CEO and chief operating employee of her firm, Cottage Chimney Sweeps. Her business card says she does safety inspections, fireplace repairs, installation of chimney pipes and rain caps, and installs screens to arrest pests and sparks, but I am more transfixed with the "Danish blonde thing," struggling to keep up with the chimney sweep part.

Ingrid fields my questions with the deftness of a diplomat, then tosses out some hints at philosophy and we move on to the really important stuff - Swedish cinema, 19th-century Danish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard, open-faced sandwiches and the pickling of herring. This is no holds barred journalism.

Chimney sweeping, says Ingrid, is a competitive trade in Winnipeg, with 10 firms specializing in it, and others doing it as a part of fireplace and oil furnace maintenance. The business is not so much dirty or dangerous, she explains, as technical, "knowing how to work the brooms and rods and vacuums and protective pads to get the crud out and keep the room at the bottom of the fireplace or stove clean," she says.

Moving from job to job in her beige Toyota Landcrusier, Ingrid is a contradiction in terms - a woman who is seemingly too glamorous to do a dirty job such as chimney cleaning, or, to be honest about it, a challenge to antique prejudices that say stylish ladies don't clamber up roofs in pursuit of soot. As for her own views on the traditional feminist battle, she says only that she loves her work.

PHOTO : Ingrid Pearson of Cottage Chimney Sweeps
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Title Annotation:Ingrid Pearson; Cottage Chimney Sweeps
Author:Allentuck, Andrew
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:432
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