Fire and HearthIt is an extremely grey, wet, stormy afternoon in deepest autumn. With a second ‘lockdown’ just begun, the road outside is totally deserted. I have just popped into the dining room to look something up in one of my recipe books and am sat in a chair by an cold,empty, ash-filled grate. We do not light the fires in all the rooms every day and are gradually changing over to enclosed log burners anyway, but it seems a very chilly and sad prospect.

The hearth and living fire has always been the heart of my home ever since I can remember. This is traditionally the focal point of any room, where everyone comes to, warms themselves at, sits around, huddles up to, talks by, reads or sews besides and rests while they watch the T.V. or listen to the radio. When the flames dance brightly the whole room is brought to life. When the fire is out – as it is now – the room dies and becomes hollow, empty, soulless.

Where is the centre of your home? We all need a centre to turn towards, to make for, to represent having truly arrived. Perhaps it might be your favourite chair, or your kitchen table, or the corner where your television sits? The problem with making the television your focal point is that, although it constantly depicts humanity, it is, in itself, essentially dead. Wherever you decide, perhaps you need to enliven it further – stand a couple of house plants in that same corner, and add a candle or two (but not too near to the plants as they fear fire).

What other ways might you depict and furnish the centre of your sanctuary with? Photos of friends or family, perhaps? A stack of your current reading? Bag of handiwork… radio near to hand… biscuit barrel close by? (Naughty!) Think about it this damp, wild day while so many of us are shut in and thrown back upon our own resources, and decide where the centre of your home is and how you can make it even more welcoming and cosy, both for yourself and for others.

I also understand that, for many of us, it is the people who we are closest to who truly make our home the haven and comfort it is… the company, the spark, the support, the laughter… the understanding when there is tears. And perhaps some of you dear souls out there will have recently lost loved ones.

To illustrate just what I mean I will finish with a poem which I wrote after the death of my mother 16 years ago, when the cottage was standing empty and neglected due to my father’s illness when he came to live with us. That was an empty cold dining room too…

Sitting in the creaking chair I look around – you are not there;
You with your funny marvellous ways – only the ‘ghosts’ of ‘yesterdays’.

The room is dark, the hearth grown cold, candles guttered, lamps well out,
China dull and silver tarnished – I blink my eyes and turn about…

Laughter, warmth and dancing flames, steaming food and boisterous games;
Companions close in evening light, enwrapped in love against the night.

But night has come and entered here. Such times with you are now long past.
The group is scattered far and wide; for good or ill no time can last.

I shake my head to break the rays of dancing lights from other days.
Ashes cold – the hearth unswept, this then is death… and I have wept.

SO – bring new life into your home, your daily routine. Do not despair. Look forwards to new beginnings and leave the past where it belongs, in fond memory, but don’t allow it to pollute all the good things which you have now… this day.

With my love.