I recently moved to a house that has a fireplace. I know lots of houses have fireplaces, but in many instances they have been replaced with modern fuel-efficient or gas-burning stoves. Very few houses still have a fireplace.
I used to always get a chuckle when I lived in Canada. There, usually around Christmas, or earlier, at Thanksgiving in the United States, stores would sell DVDs of a log fire. You stuck it in the DVD player, hit play, and all that came up on screen on your 50-inch television was a log fire burning away. Somehow, it was supposed to give you a warm tingling feeling.
I think that the chap who came up with the idea was a genius. I don’t know how many thousands of fire DVDs he managed to market, but they were quite the fad.
I suppose he was responsible too for the DVD that simply showed an aquarium with the little multi-coloured tropical fish happily darting around their tank. Imagine, you’d have all the benefits of watching the fish but never have to worry about feeding them or having to change the water.
But back to my fireplace.
There’s something very primal and satisfying about starting a fire. I think it appeals to the inner cave man in me. I have visions of being in a cave dwelling sometime back thousands of years ago, watching the flames take hold
When I was a child, the coalman would come once a week and deliver it by the big sack — around 40 kilograms at a time — dumping it into the coal stack in the backyard in a flurry of dust. Not now. Now you head to your local petrol filling station and fuel up on smokeless coal. It comes in neat plastic sacks, 10 kilograms at a time, enough for today’s weaklings to be able to lift them without fear of putting you back out.
Then there’s kindling, which comes in uniform sizes, all dry and neat and ready to go. Gone are the days when you’d have to struggle with a hatchet trying to cut pieces of wood down to size. There’s hardly a splinter to be found nowadays.
And every fire needs a firelighter, which now come in little individual sachets, and you don’t even have to take them out of the packet anymore — you simply light the sachet itself. Gone are the days of some flammable liquid-soaked hard foam breaking up as soon as you tried to set it in the fireplace.
Logs too come in convenient sacks, all dry and mostly cut to the same size, again available from the local filling station. I seem to remember logs coming by the trailer load, being dumped in the backyard with a thunderous thump as they spilt onto the ground. And inevitably they were never as dry as the farmer selling them promised they would be. No, they’d have to be stacked in the shed and seasoned — left there to dry out for the following winter for use in the fireplace.
So with wood, coal, firestarter and kindling all in hand, the great work of building the first fire of the autumn began. It was a work of art, arranged with near-mathematical precision, a pyre worthy of a Viking funeral ship.
With all in place, I look for a match. I knew I forgot something. Instead, I improvise with a paper wick lit from the stove in the kitchen, and carefully walk to through the living room towards the fireplace.
There’s something very primal and satisfying about starting a fire. I think it appeals to the inner cave man in me. I have visions of being in a cave dwelling sometime back thousands of years ago, watching the flames take hold.
I wonder what our cave men forefathers would think now of our modern take on the convenience of fire lighting. Or on DVDs of log fires.