An Alphabet Of Things I Like: F

Fire.

Humans seem to be instinctively drawn to fire. Camp fires like the one shown above would have been the first reliable source of heat in ancient times, and also provided some light in the darkness. They would have been used for any and all cooking purposes, also serving as a gathering point for family groups and clans. Keeping a fire burning constantly in all weathers would have been one of the most important things for survival. It kept away dangerous animals, and gave protection from the elements.

Until I was fifteen years old, a coal fire in the living room was the only source of heat I knew. From an early age, it was my job to fetch coal from the bunker where it was kept, and before we went to bed, my dad would ‘bank-up’ the fire with extra coal, so that it would still be warm when we woke up.

Once central heaing systems became popular, open fires in the house became a thing of the past. Many fireplaces were boarded up, and in some cases, the chimneys were removed completely. Despite the ease and effectiveness of the new methods, there was no doubt that many of us missed the comfort of seeing real flames in our own homes. On those occasions when it was appropriate, such as trips into the countryside, it wasn’t long before someone would suggest building a fire to sit around. Just for the pleasure of experiencing it again.

When I moved to Norfolk, I still missed having a fire. I bought a Chiminea, and would sit outside when we had guests, or on chilly evenings, enjoying the sight of the flames, and the warmth if you sat close to it.

But I wanted more, and it wasn’t long before I spent a considerable mount of money having a wood-burning stove installed in the living room. It makes me feel complete and reassured, watching the flames through the glass door, and feeling the intense heat warming the house.

My life has gone full circle with fire, from birth to old age.

65 thoughts on “An Alphabet Of Things I Like: F

  1. Isn’t full circle wonderful when it comes from something you loved? I didn’t grow up with fire in my house, but I went to summer camp every year when I was a child. We learned how to make a fire, and evenings were spent around the fire. It was wonderful. Fast forward to moving to New England, and living in a 1820’s house with a big fireplace. Fire once again became a warm part of my life. Pun intended.

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  2. I’ve never lived in a house with either coal or real wood fire, but it is lovely. I remember a colleague of mine, a Spanish doctor from Cรกdiz, who couldn’t get used to the cold weather in the North of the UK, and his mission seemed to be to check all the pubs and find those with a real wood fire. He wasn’t much of a drinker but loved to spend his time next to a fire, something not very common back home. (I wonder if I’d actually manage to light a fire. I’ve never tried!)

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    1. I love my wood burner, even though it has to be seriously cold to be able to light it. If you were back in the UK on a bitterly cold night, I could make you fall in love with the flames. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Nice one for F. Yes, who doesn’t love a fire? I won’t go camping unless I can have a campfire. When I was in Scotland, the rental house had coal fires. Never had that before. Very messy. I visited friends who used peat in theirs. So different from the wood burning fires I was used to. Embers and glow–always the light I feel drawn to…

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  4. Our whole heating system is based on wood burning, although its down in the cellar where nobody goes ๐Ÿ™‚ We do have a log burner, but if I’m honest it is rarely lit. Our real fire fix is when we do BBQs in the garden, which is a very basic fire pit, but always enjoyed, especially as the light fades and the flames become the focal point.

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  5. Hard to get wood / fossil fuel fires here they want every one to rely on electricity, OK until a power cut, but one way of culling out the older population and that saves on pension payout too. Perhaps I should buy shares in a power line company.

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    1. Wood isn’t a cheap option here. But as we don’t use it all the time, I don’t mind. Currently, Norfolk is exempt from ‘pollution’ restrictions on using them. That might not last for much longer though.
      Cheers, Pete.

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  6. Nothing doing, my wife always wanted a fireplace so we had one put in the living room wall. Beautiful work. I think we might have used it three times and that was enough to make her realize how much work are involved in them. So for the last 20+ years we have a beautiful fireplace mantle to put a lot of pictures on.

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  7. We had fireplaces in our house growing but they didn’t put out much heat as they had an open hearth. Today most fireplaces have an insert to harness the heat and reduce emissions. We use ours almost year around and it keeps our home snug and toasty. And there’s nothing like sitting around a campfire at night with a bunch of friends telling bear stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Although Las Vegas is located in the Mojave Desert, where winters are short and mild, fireplaces are very popular. They are more of an aesthetic thing than a practical thing. Gas fireplaces are the most popular, but you’ll also find some (probably older) homes with wood-burning fireplaces. A few homeowners install electric units which “produce flamelike effects with realistic glowing logs powered by LED technology.” There is also something called a TV niche, which is basically a niche in the living room that can be converted into a fireplace, as there is a flue above the ceiling, visible from outside the house.

    Having grown up in Missouri, I’m familiar with both gas-burning and wood-burning fireplaces in the home. I’ve also done quite a bit of camping on mountain hikes and canoe trips where a campfire was used for warmth and cooking. Back in 1995, midway through a week-long hike south of Yellowstone National Park, and after trudging and tripping through a high-altitude marsh among graceful moose, I put my tennis shoes at the edge of a campfire in order to dry them out, and the flames gave them a real licking! The rest of the hike, I wore blackened, partially melted tennis shoes!

    I was surprised you didn’t mention the film “Quest for Fire” in your first paragraph.

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  9. For all the time I lived with Mary in our old house in Karnes City, the fireplace was the only means to heat the living-room. And you know how a fireplace works: it roasts your front while your back still freezes. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Well, we did have an additional oil radiator, but that was way too little to really do any good. We moved that around in the house to wherever we needed it. Other than that, we quite frequently used the gas oven in the kitchen to warm that room up.

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  10. I love a warm crackling fire, Pete. In my grandmotherโ€™s house, the fire seemed to burn so hot I remember pulling my chair back away from the fire. Outdoor fires were always fun for roasting hotdogs and marshmallows.

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  11. I think there’s something very primitive about our fascination with fire. We had a coal fire in the living room – it was my job to light it when I came home from school. Our multi-generational picnics on the beach always include building a bonfire and everyone, regardless of age, couldn’t resist the need to poke it or throw on more wood – and the joy of toasting marshmallows on sticks.

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  12. I never grew up with fire Iโ€™m afraid, having lived in an appartment building all my life, but there is something mesmerising with it. Whenever I had the opportunity to do so, I would definitely seek it out during vacations for instance, on when visiting friends. Thereโ€™s something immensely cozy about it too๐Ÿ˜€

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  13. Nice to have a fire, I’ve got a pretend one that looks like yours in my shed. ๐Ÿ™‚ We used to have one in the living room of our house when I was a kid, I still have the scar on my thigh where a hot coal jumped out and landed on me.

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  14. At my previous address, an open fire in the living room [with no back boiler] was the only ‘built-in’ form of heating, although the owners had thoughtfully provided some electric oil-filled radiators to supplement, or replace that, but they weren’t cheap to use. At my current address, I have a wood-burning stove with a back boiler, that heats water for radiators in the other rooms, but the water circulation isn’t very good, mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a pump in the system, which doesn’t seem very efficient; but then again, I’m no heating engineer. The benefit of seeing the flames is minimal, unfortunately, because a) I sit facing away from the stove, because of the orientation of the room, and b) the door glass is well smoked [unsurprisingly!] and I haven’t been able to summon the enthusiasm to clean them. On the plus side, the stove can also burn coal, which I might have to resort to if the weather turns really cold. Cheers, Jon.

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  15. Yes, fire, it brings so many good things to us, but as an Australian, living in the country, I have friends who’ve lost their homes to fire, and I mourn the loss too, of the large number of deaths it has caused, both people, and animals.

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    1. I did not include disastrous wild fires in my post, as I was only reflecting on comforting home fires, Carolyn. Naturally, such fires are catastrophies for both animals and humans, and the recent ones in Australia and the US were terrible indeed.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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