My great granny lived in a small Devon village all her life. Her time was the late Victorian years through to the first man walking on the moon. She witnessed a great deal of the progress of mankind and all the marvels and menaces of the ages.
She also had a great way about her of ignoring most of these and sticking with the tried and trusted methods of her generation. Never a 'Luddite' or 'closed minded' to labour-saving devices and convenience, she still preferred what she was comfortable with.
This was never more so than with her conviction of the benefits of open fires in the house.
"If I just flicked a switch to make the cottage warm and cosy I'd never get dressed in the morning. I have to go in and out for logs and coal. I'm not doing that in my nightie."
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Her other reason for her open fire was less practical but just as endearing.
"If I had no fire in the grate it would be as if I had lost a faithful companion; a friend. It keeps me company with its cheerful glow and the way it flickers and crackles as it burns."
Certainly my memories of her cottage have always been of warmth, cheer, and security.
It was always a bit earlier than this time of year that she would go up to the woods and collect fir cones to burn in the grate. From the age of 60 she would always say, "I'd better collect extra this year in case I'm not here next year."
I firmly believe the fire and the jobs attendant with it kept her going. I was only a little boy when she used to tell me that... and she was over 90 then.