Thinking back to Mary Poppins, they covered up all the furniture in the room before they swept the chimney, presumably to stop soot going everywhere. However, the guy I had here did it a different way: he taped a cloth cover around the fireplace, which has a tube sticking out in the middle, a bit like an elephant's trunk. He then fed the brush through this tube, and screwed on each rod in turn to extend it up the chimney. Meanwhile, there was also a vacuum cleaner with the nozzle stuck under one corner of the cloth cover, which sucked out all the soot that fell down the chimney. That worked out quite nicely, so the rest of the room stayed clean and tidy. (Well, technically it's a complete mess, but that's just my clutter - it didn't get any worse!)
Chatting to the sweep, he mentioned that he's very busy at this time of year, whereas there's very little to do in May/June. That made sense, since I'd expect this to be seasonal. However, the interesting thing is that apparently it wasn't always this way. Back in the old days, people would do "spring cleaning" once the winter was over, so they'd take up the carpets and clean the chimney once they'd finished with it for the year, rather than waiting until they were about to start using it again. That seems sensible, so I'll try that next year.
I've still got a scuttle full of "coal" (smokeless fuel) left over from last year, but I'll need to buy more soon. However, the sweep suggested that I could ask around local shops to see whether they have any pallets delivered. These are apparently made of kiln-dried wood, so they won't produce smoke; I'd just need to saw them up myself. That sounds like a good plan, since I do like a wood fire (i.e. proper flames), and it would be cheaper than buying bags of fuel. I'm not sure whether this would affect my carbon footprint, assuming that these pallets would wind up being destroyed anyway, but I won't feel too guilty about that.
Anyway, I've got the rest of the day off work (using up my annual leave before it expires), so I'll try to be productive.