While preparing our vegetable patch this weekend, burning the last remnants of our pruning, it occurred to me that the average Englishman hardly has any relationship with fire in this age. If we are cold, we flip a switch and do the same when it gets dark; the closest we get are the blue jets of heat on the gas cooker. Whereas my wife’s mother will stoke the flames in her wood burning stove to cook some fresh corn bread several times a week, whereas desert nomads would gather around open roaring flames comforting them in the deep cold night, we are a people of switches. So I started to wonder: are we in danger of losing the imagery of centuries? What effect does the loss of contact with one of the most potent influences on humanity have on our language? Standing there, watching the tall orange flames, the heat reaching my face though I stood more than a metre away, these random thoughts came to mind. In the evening, when I returned from the market, I arranged a pile of bricks both side of the now white ash and placed a grill on top. Dinner was delicious that night and I felt some sort of appreciation for the imagery of old.

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