We live in a house in the Irish countryside. It is an old house, with small windows and a large roof. The main room is centred on the fireplace with the crane and kettle attached. At one point in the past the fire would have been where all the food was cooked. The crane would have held the pots and skillets that the water would be boiled in or the bread baked on. It is a lovely old thing.
Sadly, it has been out of action for a while. You see, the big old fireplace had a big old chimney – about a metre wide, and a foot deep. Just a large tube open to the sky. In the past, this was fine. The fire would be lit and never go out. I am told that the fire would be arranged before bed so that it kept smoldering away all night, and was re-lit in the morning by the addition of some more firewood. Or more likely here, turf or peat.
When my grandfather passed away, the fire went out. Of course time went on and the hearth would hold a new fire. Like when my father brought us here as children. Or later when my teenage friends and I would come here (with a few beers – shhh… don’t tell anyone) the fire was always the most important thing to sort out before anything else happened. Before food, or sleeping arrangements. Fire.
The hearth has been lacking a fire recently. I try my best to get here as often as I can, but recently that has been difficult. Ireland is quite a way from Peru. So the house has been cold and dark. And this leads to a problem. With no heat going up the chimney, there are a lot of things that will fall down the chimney – besides the birds and the odd bat – there is a lot of rain in this part of the world. And it poured down the enormous chimney and made the house damp. So we had the chimney top covered up and a small pot put on to reduce the amount of water coming down.
Reducing the amount of water coming down was good – but it also reduced the amount of smoke going up. In fact it, stopped the smoke going up at all. My wife and I merrily lit the fire, but once it got going to any size at all, we noticed that it was difficult to see in the house. The smoke was everywhere. Eventually we had to open all the windows, which kind of defeated the purpose of having the fire in the winter.
So, today we are very pleased to announce that the chimney is now back open for business! Look at our lovely fireplace!
With the fire lit, the house has changed completely . Time seems to stop. Peace has descended. There now is a centre to the house where we wandered around before.
One great thing about having the fire is deciding to eat at the table together, and not at the TV. We talk. We get up from time to time and poke the fire.
And sitting doing whatever you want to do – her jigsaw puzzle, or knitting, or me drawing (whoops! Must start that again) or coding is done together in a lovely silence with the fire crackling away behind us.
The fire brings the house to life.