Although we’ve escaped without seeing any snow here in South Wales, it has turned decidedly chilly. Breaking out the newspapers, the kindling and the mysterious blocks of what appears to be compressed sawdust (it took a while for our logs to be delivered, and actual firewood was not to be had in the shops for love nor money), we have ceremonially lit the woodburner, and are spending as much time as possible snuggling in front of its cheerful glow.
For Eoin, the whole experience has been a combination of fascination and terror. He loves watching the flames dance from a safe distance, and will spend ages gazing into the fire, imagining goodness knows what. However, we have clearly dinned our warnings about not touching hot objects into him well: he gets really nervous whenever we are re-fuelling the stove, and has even tried to shut the door of the fireguard with me half-way though it, shouting “Close! Close! Hot!” in a rather panicky fashion. Gates are there for your safety, and should be closed at all times, you know.
For me, the lighting of the logburner has involved a crash course in laying a fire, and particularly in the making of eeks. This is a family idiom for those long strips of rolled newspaper which you fold into knots and lay beneath the kindling. When my mum was a little girl, my grandfather used to tickle her with the rolled-up newspaper strips, while making an “eek eek!” noise. My mum was so convinced that these newspaper strips were actually called eeks, that she described them, quite seriously, as such while taking the test for a Girl Guides badge, in which laying a fire was one of the required skills. Whether or not she received the badge, history does not relate, though apparently she gave the examiner a the best laugh they’d had all day.
Now that the stove is lit, it’s beginning to feel an awful lot like winter, rather than just the chilly, damp, dark tail end of autumn. All we need is a stove-top kettle and some potatoes to roast in the hot ash, with maybe a snifter of Glühwein or a hot toddy when the nights really draw in, and we’ll be set for a few months of hunkering down, staying cozy and generally going into semi-hibernation.