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.