• Charli


My senses were assaulted this morning at 0610 by the sound of a fire appliance, while I was out walking Jack. My immediate thought was of a road traffic accident on the country roads but as I continued my walk I noticed that the flashing blue lights had stopped outside nearby sheltered housing.

I imagined a toaster on fire or a grill pan sparking and flashing with the soured remains of a bacon rind. I’ll probably never know why the fire fighters were in attendance, I can only hope that no-one was hurt.

As children, and in order to gain our pocket money, one of our chores was to sweep the fireplace, remove the ashes from the grate, replace reusable clinker (the incombustible residue, fused into an irregular lump, that remains after the combustion of coal) an early form of recycling, and set and light the fire. We were taught to take the brush over the back of the chimney breast near the place where the flames licked, ensuring that no soot would shower the sitting room should there be an icy blast from the North. Dad showed us how to hold the match to the fire lighter and  gradually build up the mound of coal, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, that would eventually become engulfed in yellow and blue flame. I still take pleasure and pride from lighting our fire and even for the sake of a couple of hours each evening it is a worthwhile ‘chore’.

Much as I love a good open fire in the hearth and the hot coals of a barbecue, or the smokey choking air surrounding the autumnal burning of leaves, to be badly hurt or burned by fire is one of my greatest fears.

Of course we don’t have bonfires much these days, encouraged as we are to reduce, reuse and recycle and in today’s built-up towns and villages it can be a nuisance to neighbours who like to air their homes by leaving a window open.

I hope that all that remains of this morning’s incident is a slightly charred work top, a discarded toaster and a bit of a red face.

Fire –  a poem

Licking, flicking, curling, unashamed;

writhing, twirling, spitting yellow flame.

Black and red and grey and blue.

Dropping, cracking. A smokey hue

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