We checked the chimney out and had it swept, and then we didn't use it!
This winter, both the radiators in the front room decided to stop working, and the room was chilly! So earlier in the week, rather than spend money on gas and electric radiators, I got hold of some kindling and paper, bought some smokeless coals and firelighters, and set about discovering the joys of a real fire!
I love it! Cleaning out the hearth with metal spade-thing and brush. Scrunching the newspaper into balls, scattering crumbled firelighter brick (which smells of chemical paraffin) over them, and placing a larger chunk of the stuff in the centre ... then apply a match to the central brick. The flames burst slowly into life and the paper crackles as it's consumed. Then I place the kindling in a small tower around and over it.
The flames lick higher and when the wood is burning, I then carefully collapse the tower with lumps of the coal, building a small pile with a core of hot, burning wood beneath it. The fire crackles and smoke is drawn up and out the chimney. It smells like autumn and comfort. Like childhood and those long, perfect evenings spent tending bonfires in the garden with my dad.
Sam and I then curl up with a glass of something red, watching the firelight playing on the glasses, the room lit with candles and flickering shadows. It's wonderful and cosy, and the fire seems to heat the room far better than the gas fire does. Indeed, because the open chimney runs the height of the house, the fire heats the other rooms too - very clever those house designers of long ago.
Every so often I'll move the coals around, add more, making the little fire bigger and more effective ... it's a strangely satisfying thing tending a fire ... sort of restful and relaxing. I love how the coals glow and crackle, how the new fuel smokes and steams for a time while it dries out and then starts to burn gently. Moreover there's a wonderful sense of calm ... just what we need in these hectic times.
I've just finished the editing and publication work on a new book for Telos called Celtic Spells - a collection of 52 simple spells (one for every week of the year), chants and meditations which guide people to a more thoughtful and spiritual association with nature and the wonders of the world around us. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs and so this newfound delight at the simplicity of a hearth fire is well timed.