At the risk of sounding horribly environmentally unfriendly, I’m loving the pervading smell of bonfires and chimney smoke that starts wafting down the valley at this time of year. Edalians are a hardy bunch and most would eschew central heating in favour of a glowing, spitting, crackling fire in the corner of the room to keep warm. Wood is collected and stored with unspoken art and village children grow up accustomed to the joys and dangers of this new, seasonal member of the household. Ample compensation for the loss of leaves and the darkening of the days outside.
The Edale bonfire in November has become the stuff of legend. Built high with tractors and cherry pickers, its roaring backdrop has seen couples meeting, children growing up and a cast of village “characters” enjoying (and falling foul of) its sky-skimming flames. All in deepest silhouette. This year, an unloved rowing boat sat on top – rumour has it that it was the final, fiery resting place of a shoe-boxed village rabbit.
This month’s book choice is a fitting tribute to fires, big and small. The triumph of those first sparks, the nurturing of growing flames and the hypnotic joy of watching them disappear up the chimney or out into an inky black night. Bushcraft expert Daniel Hume is as careful with his words as he is with the placing of his kindling and his passion for fire is beautifully captured.
“Fire is at the root of the progress of the human race, and the instinct to huddle closely around, facing inward towards the flames warming our hands and faces, is one of the most ancient and deeply rooted of all. Fire fascinates, captures the imagination, and brings families and communities together. Like any of the wonders and mysteries of the universe, it has the ability to touch something deep inside all of us.”
The Art of Fire by Daniel Hume. Published by Century.