I love bonfires. When I was a child I loved fireworks too. Now I can take them or leave them but a good fire is a wonderful thing. We had a fire in the field the other night. We had been piling wood up for a couple of weeks, prunings of shrubs, trimmings of the native hedges, brambles and bits of holly cut back from behind the shepherd's hut. The woodpile was ready to light and the pallet was covered with perennial weed to burn when things got really hot.
It was a pitchblack night, cold and wet with gusts of rain blowing out of the darkness, snatching at the fire and hurling flame and smoke back into the blackness.
Standing on the doorstep it was the kind of night to drive you back inside but we gathered our coats around us and set out across the black field. Soon the centre of the fire was a mesmerising glow.
Gusts of wind made it roar into sheets of flame. Our faces were hot although the rain blew cold on our backs. Ian patrolled the fire with his pitchfork, pulling unburnt twigs into the burning centre, turfing clods of perennial weed into the furnace. A fire is a primitive thing. It draws you to it with its warmth and light but makes the surrounding darkness more intense and strange, inpenetrable blackness. You look into the fire and see worlds turning in the flame but when you turn away you can see nothing.
Every now and then a larger piece of wood fell into the fire, fountaining sparks as it went. Smoke gusted into our faces and made us circle and dance around the fire. Eventually our shoulders and backs were so wet with rain that the cold began to seep in so we retired to the shepherd's hut where a fire had been burning in the stove, lit at the same time as the field bonfire. The woodburner is so effective that the hut was warm as toast, warm enough to shed your socks and jerseys and welcome a cold glass of wine.
What about you? Do you like or fear fire, or perhaps both?