There is nothing more comforting than a crackling fire. In the depths of its flames, you can see flickering images that set your mind drifting back through time, to memories and relaxing moments. You always start with a cold room. The air might be a little damp, clammy against your skin. The metal of the fireplace sends a chill through hand and a frisson up your back, as if you’d seen a ghost. The fireplace door creaks and scrapes as you open it and your breath catches a hint of sulfur and soot from the grey and black ashes you’ve stirred. I always think about the words I’m burning when I crumple up pages from the newspaper, or I take a good long look at the insignia on the pizza box I am about to burn. Then it joins the little mound of paper and carton around which I arrange a nest of twigs and kindling. A draft from the chimney sweeps in with a very gentle moan, and I feel the cool wind against my cheek – a chilly caress. I snap a box of wooden matches open and with a rasp and the sound of fireworks, the match lights. I feel its sudden heat on my hand and I smell its sulfurous scent. When I touch it to the paper, it catches quickly on the newsprint, devouring the day’s affairs and burns slowing in many colours on the pizza box. Then, with a whoosh the tiny flame gains strength and spreads to all of the paper and carton – soon the twigs and kindling are crackling with flame, their sap snapping and fizzing in the heat. I add two small logs, who sinews catch quick and soon the room’s grey is replaced with dancing reds and yellows and oranges. The dead black and bronze of the cold fireplace is alive – a theatre of light and sound. The warmth that radiates out pushes away the cool air and banishes the clammy chill. All that’s left is to find a blanket, a good book or to crack open the laptop and read or surf until the warmth and the fire’s song lull you into a gentle doze. After that, it’s jus a question of adding logs as the night wears on, and alternating between reading, surfing and blissful naps.