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  • My family is a family of mild pyromaniacs, particularly in the female line.

    My grandmother could keep a bonfire going for a fortnight.

    My mother once lit a small fire in the grounds of Hampton Court, for no reason other than that she was bored and felt like it.

    Growing up, I remember constant discussions about whether or not particular pieces of rubbish would burn or not. Cardboard, obviously. But I have known food, and tin cans, and plastic to go on there, and remember the occasional chimney fire as a result.

    I hate to live in a house without a fireplace, though I am more careful about what I burn. This is my current one, sketched by me one winter's evening when I had nothing better to do.

    I have been thinking about the idiosyncrasies of firestarting. I hate to use firelighters, so I end up feeding it with bits of cardboard and wasting dozens of matches.

    One thing I've noticed is that one log on its own will sit and sulk, smouldering ineffectually, almost indefinitely. But as soon as I add another log, somehow the first log becomes competitive and decides to burst into flame after all.
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