Fires in the Hearth: now and then

My childhood involved quite a few fires. I remember my dad toiling over the hearth (30's inglenook style) of our Lewes house, exhorting me to keep the door shut (draughts were the enemy) and twisting newspaper sheets into logs: a skill that has now come in handy as I spent an hour or two making loads the other night. I have strong memories of good fires going (in those days we used "coke", compressed coal nuggets) and the unique warm feeling they induced, helping to temper the windy, cold and wet weather we sometimes we get in England, even in the South. OK, it's a lot more than sometimes, but then that's even more reason to have a nice fire. A good, deep, roasting fire is like a good meal in that regard: it not only fills an immediate need brillianty, perhaps for hours, but then lingers on into the future. This occured the other day. Sarah and I'd been talking about getting the fire going - and she was very keen I get a chimney sweep in to clean it out in readiness. Though that had always been my plan, and I had not got that done for over 2 years - hence no fires in the hearth (there are 4 of them in the house), the next door neighbour had advised me that was not needed, as he hadn't done so and his fires were fine over the last 10 years. Bouyed with the confidence of knowing this meant less work on my part - with the likelyhood of success plus saving a few quid in the process - I made some newspaper logs, got out an old grate from the shed, an old oven pan to catch the ashes and carefully got the fire going with a combination of some sparingly but stragetigically placed fire-lighters, the newspaper logs (they look like knots, which they are) and wood logs. It was great, the room quickly became warm if a little smoky! Overall the effect was great, we lovingly gazed at the flickering embers and sporadic flames: it's like watching the sea - familiar, seemingly similar but ever changing. I think we're going to have quite a few fires this winter. Time to stack up some logs for the winter months ahead me thinks.