I was standing by an open fire, in the middle of a frosty Armidale* winter, warming my 21-year-old bottom. Oooh, it was lovely. So lovely that I declared, 'Heaven is going to be full of open fires!'
My friends smirked and one cheeky critter muttered, 'I think that's the other place!'
But they knew what I meant. There's nothing quite like a fire on a cold winter's night.
Or a cold winter's morning.
Or even a mildly chilly spring afternoon.
Fire is delightful.
It also excites me. (Not in a pyromaniacal way!)
I think it stems from my childhood and all the great memories that centre around fire.
Some of my earliest and warmest memories are of spending time with my beloved aunt, Marcia. Marcia had a slow combustion stove in her kitchen, a hungry monster with fire in its belly. It demanded round-the-clock feeding with wood chips and logs. In return, it churned out a generous and delicious array of cakes, biscuits, shepherd's pies, roast dinners and self-saucing puddings that would warm the cockles of any four-year-old's heart. I decided I liked the monster. Even though it couldn't be patted because its skin was always burning hot. Because who wouldn't like anyone or anything that churned out self-saucing puddings?
Fire also played a fun and fascinating role in our household garbage disposal routine. We had an incinerator down the back of our yard. It was an old 44 gallon drum into which we tipped our rubbish. Once a week we'd set fire to it. (They were simpler times - before anyone ever mentioned global warming or greenhouse gas.) My brother and I hated all household chores, except this one. Together, we'd go down behind the shed, light the rubbish and watch in delight as the flames leapt up into the air. We'd toss in sticks and leaves (and probably some stuff from the shed that we shouldn't have) to keep the fire burning. We'd spit into the flames and rejoice in the hiss-and-sizzle because it reflected well on our salivary glands (important when you're seven or eight). And best of all, we'd roll sheets of newspaper into giant cigars, set fire to the ends and smoke them. My word, we felt defiant and sneaky and clever ... until we inhaled a lungful of the Classifieds and staggered around choking.
We also had regular bonfire nights in our backyard.
UNSUPERVISED BY ADULTS!!!
The only rule was that we had to wear inflammable clothes. Nylon was banned. Woollen garments were king.
My mum would take us out to the bush where we'd fill the boot with dead branches. Back home, we'd stack the wood, stuff it with old newspapers (the few we hadn't smoked) then spread the word: FIRE NIGHT BREWING AT 73 EDWARDS STREET!
By nightfall, our yard would be full of kids bearing sausages, foil-wrapped spuds and bags of marshmallows. We'd light the fire and cook our own dinner, a feast of half-raw sausages and black, sooty potatoes. We'd tell ghost stories while toasting marshmallows. Sometimes we'd have toasted marshmallow fights - Icky. And we'd always end the night with a game of Spotlight and someone running home bawling their eyes out. Fabulous! Best thing about my childhood.
In short, the naked flame was terribly exciting for me as a child.
And I have never lost that deep love of fire.
Which is why I have just spent the weekend researching and choosing my own log fire.
Our new house is going to feature a real log fire with real wood that I get to light with real matches resulting in ... real flames.
I'm already starting to look wistfully at marshmallows as I pass the lolly aisle in the supermarket.
I'm ogling bits of dry wood as I drive along country lanes.
I'm rejecting clothes that don't have '100% wool' written on their labels.
I'm stockpiling newspapers so I can roll my own Cuban-style cigars once more.
And I'm dreaming of coming inside on a frosty evening, warming my bottom by the fire and knowing that I'm getting a little taste of heaven.
* Armidale, NSW - Freezing winters, sometimes snow. Actually, sometimes the snow even came in spring.