I was brought up in a house with a coal fire for heating in the living room and a stove in the kitchen to burn coke for hot water. We had the best winters, my favourite place would be sat in the cats chair next to the stove with the kitchen lights off gazing into the red hot embers I could see through the grate. It was the cosiest spot in the house and I’d always be a little disappointed when someone walked in and flicked the kitchen light on. In the living room the coal fire roared and hissed when in full force, steam splitting the large pieces apart to reveal bright orange caves that one could imagine fairies and pixies living in.
My Nan had a coal fire and she was an expert at putting all her rubbish on it, she’d burn anything would Nan. The wet potato peelings would get thrown on making a great big hiss quickly followed by watching them curl up and burn. All manner of plastics would get thrown on which Nan when questioned if it was safe or poisonous was that ‘it’d be alright’. And she was a devil with a sheet of newspaper which she would use to draw the fire with, the amount of times the drawing of the fire would roar, she gaily laughing as it got louder and louder, us children screaming with a little fear as ‘poof’ the newspaper would catch alight and with luck fly into the fireplace. The amount of times she nearly set the living room on fire and only the quick use of a poker, prodding it back into the fire saved us all. They were magical times.
One of the reasons I bought this house was that although it was boarded up we knew it had a baxi fireplace – which is basically a fireproof hole in the ground in which one puts a metal bucket to catch the hot embers. It can take two or three days worth of ash, depending on the duration and size of fire. We looked at a new estate of houses and completely ruled them out, no chimneys on any of them – all that magic never to be experienced, all those memories never to be made.
My homefire smokeless fuel arrived yesterday, I know it looks like lumps of black coal to you,but to me it’s old magical memories and new ones to be made, it’s the promise of warmth and happy evenings, cosy dogs and happy cats, it’s laughter and contentment, reading and sock knitting, it warms old bones and soothes tired brows and eases one into a soporific state while gazing at its red hot embers. It is always the perfect end to any kind of day.