The use I grew up in had two fireplaces.
Once I remember using for warmth before my parents could afford to have central heating put in. The other was more ornamental; an open fire. Years after we no longer needed the fires for their heat, I still remember lighting the open fire. So, for me, there is almost nothing more enjoyable on a cold Winter day than snuggling down in front of a crackling fire place to read a book and drink a cup of tea.
That’s why, last week when blistering 30 degree days were replaced by cold, wind and drizzle, I went back to my parents’ house in search of their fire.
As I gathered kindling in the back yard I realised how lucky I was to be able to do this. The house I live in now lacks a fireplace (though I keep telling my husband that we desperately require one). And I’m lucky, too, that my parents have a large backyard full of twigs and sticks to start a fire. I don’t have that here, either, where our only large tree (a gorgeous maple) is not known for shedding its branches.
I thought about the fact that I could start a fire without firelighters, that I had access to timber and a place to burn it. Things that I take for granted now, but that could be a necessity one day. A just in case day. And I’m grateful for the fact that I’ve grown up knowing these things.
But with such pleasure comes risk, and in Australia that risk is bushfire. My parents (for all their uncleared scrub) live in a fairly urban area. Bushfires aren’t likely to arrive here. But other parts of Australia aren’t so lucky.
Sometimes it’s easy to think of fire only as a comfort, a toy we bring out to play with when we’re cold and bored. It’s easy to forget that it can destroy entire towns, entire lives.
And so this week my thoughts go out to those people in New South Wales who are battling the fires. And to those people who have lived in bushfire affected areas in the past. And to those who will be affected again. I give thanks to those people in the fire brigade who take their own lives in their hands to help us. And I hope everyone can stay safe this Summer.