There continues to live a bit of caveman in us today, I think. The man of our house, for one, loves making a wood fire whether it’s in a fireplace or for a barbecue or simply for the sake of having a sociable ambience fire, and I love having a wood fire just as much. Staring into the flames of a cosy fire while time seems to stand still for a while is mesmerising, comforting, peaceful and very social. Nothing rushes us as we sit around a camp fire maybe with a glass of wine and life slows down for a while, bringing us back to nature and the people around us. Television or mobile phones are superfluous, the company of the fire which has a life of its own and those around us are enough. It takes us back to a time where daily activities ended with last light and everyone would gather around the fire at night to share stories and life would slow down for a while.
The smell of a friendly wood fire triggers happy memories of sitting around a camel thorn wood camp fire whilst holidaying in Namibia, a hard wood that would burn slowly with its own particular magical smell. It’s something I’ve loved doing from my childhood days. Sometimes in Namibia in the middle of winter in freezing temperatures we sat around a camp fire at night but it was so bitterly cold that only the part of your body which faced the fire stayed warm. Every so often after you’d warmed your hands over the fire you’d have to turn around to warm your back because it would have got cold in the meantime, and so you’d continue to keep turning around every few minutes to try to keep warm. And no camp fire was complete without having toasted some sticky sweet marshmallows on sticks.
Where cavemen might have looked at the sun askance and murmured amongst each other over the weather, we now have weather apps predicting and forecasting what we can expect. We have weather stations telling us current, minimum and maximum temperatures and weather channels on TV with long-term forecasts. My husband loves weather stats, amongst others, and always updates us on the latest forecasts, especially when we’re away from home. The weather station goes along on holiday and gets moved around to different locations for different readings in an attempt to find the ideal location, such as under the front veranda of the tent or beside the tent in the shade.
Recently when we stayed at Donnelly River, an old mill village in the Southwest of Western Australia, in an old timber miller’s cottage we had the opportunity to enjoy some lovely wood fires again. Lying nestled in a little valley, the village gets colder than the surrounding area and with tall Karri trees that have grown to about 30 metres all around, the sun sets early and as soon as it does the temperature dips quickly. Our caveman was in his element when he was able to light us two fires every night – one in the fireplace and another in the old wood fired kitchen stove. Collecting the kindle and firewood supply of varying thickness was a daily activity with which Child No 3 was tasked to help dutifully every time, much the same as it would have been in years gone by and great was the joy – mine included – when the little timber cottage started heating up and in the early morning cold we’d try to warm our hands over the fire inside the old kitchen stove. We teased him over his unabated joy and pride in having made us the fires, true caveman style, but we enjoyed having those fires in equal measure.
A trip away wouldn’t be complete without the weather station going along though, so we had accurate temperature data all along, but it was quite entertaining when we were very proudly told the actual stats of a 0.1°C temperature increase inside the cottage not long after the fire in the old kitchen stove got going and I realised that even though we love all the temperature gages and modern gadgets that our technological age provides, deep down there still lives a bit of caveman in us, which really makes us but modern cavemen and which will hopefully live on in years to come. It’s great to take a step back sometimes and appreciate things in life that really matter, albeit with the aid of some mod cons.