It is the time of year when winter's snap must be kept under control. A quick flick of the central heating switch and Hey Presto! it's back into shorts and T shirts and the need for woolly jumpers is limited to outdoor use only. But like many across the country I prefer a log fire to keep the elements at bay because real warmth cannot be achieved just by flicking a switch.
16 years ago at the age of 20 I was lucky enough to own my first house where I still live. It consists of two old farmhouse cottages knocked into one with the oldest part of the house around 500 years old.
However, when I bought the house it had been extensively modernised and the four once open fireplaces had been blocked off with a gas flame fire in the living room, which I always found so frustrating to use.
Then in 1994 I managed to purchase my dream, a multi-fuelÂ burning stove which would run the central heating. So out went the gas and in came the logs and coal. But I was not prepared for the work involved with a stove. The constant cleaning and having to make sure it doesn't go out and banking the fire in for the night. But the reward was instant the moment I lit it.
The warm orange glow with the smell of burning wood makes the senses instantly come alive. Who needs a television when the quiet crackling of the fire and the dancing flames are there to tantalise you. Just put on some appropriate mood enhancing music and curl up with a book or a loved one with a bottle of red wine and, in the words of Ray Davies, you're "in your Shangri La".
Over the years I have put the chimney breasts back into working order so that another two fires have been added with stoves in the kitchen and the master bedroom which I am sure is testimony to my love of a real fire.
Pictured above is a good friend of mine who came with my log delivery and a welcome sight it is to see those logs being hurled onto my patio ready for stacking and there is little to compare (in terms of outside features) with a rustic haphazardÂ pile of logs stacked for use as pictured below.
So how difficult is it to get hold of wood and coal?
Well that is going to vary depending on the area you live in, but a simple look through your local paper and a few inquiries should give you a good idea of the fuel and wood situation.
I have little in the way of comfort for those who are unfortunate enough not to have a real fire in their home except to say I know your pain after renting a house for 10 months that didn't have one. A house is not a home until the walls are drenched in the moving orange glow that is the real fire.
And for all you green yoghurt weavers out there, burning wood is carbon neutral so all very good for the planet and with the unpredictability of fuel prices the one thing that Britain has is a supply of wood and coal (if they reopen the mines) so go find yourself a stove and open that chimney breast back up.
Damp in old terraced houses only really became a problem when the cooking ranges were taken out because the stoves heated the stonework of the house on each end kept the damp away as well as giving the house a regular change of air.
OKÂ I will shut up and leave you with one thought…..wouldn't you want to spend Christmas day by an open fire?