I know we should never stop learning but there are some things, once learnt, we genuinely feel there can’t be much more to it than what we already know.
Take putting logs on the fire for example. Once the fire is going and needs an additional log presumably we all know the routine: take one log from the log basket, preferably well seasoned unless a suitable green burning wood like Ash, carefully (using a fireproof mit if required) lay log on top of existing flames and ensure resulting burning pile of wood is prevented from rolling apart. Job done.
So imagine my surprise when one day in my late thirties I was adding a couple of logs to the roaring fire to keep Granny warm, only to be challenged on how I was approaching this simple task.
“Jamie!” (only Granny calls me ‘Jamie’), “not like that, they need to go in upright.”
“Sorry Granny?”, thinking to myself she can’t mean that.
But sure enough, “You should put the logs in the grate vertically, my father always said the logs should be upright in the fire grate. He always did it that way”.
Slightly taken aback, a couple of thoughts flashed through my mind. ‘Quite touching that Granny, some ninety years on, still held so fondly the instructions and example of her father.’ But also, ‘I wonder what he must have been like to live with if he was giving instructions about these sort of details? Especially when opinions on the exact angle a log sat in the fire at were simply a matter of personal preference.’
I’m not sure what you would do in this situation? but I seem to remember I managed, “Oh really.”
I stopped, looked at the fire, thought some more, and looked at Granny. Somewhere in there, I thought a combination of ‘it can’t do too much harm to show willing’, ‘I like the idea of honouring Granny, even if I can’t attach any great reason to why she might be right’ and perhaps there was also a little bit of ‘Great Grandpa was supposed to be quite clever’ and ‘it might be worth a go in case we have possibly lost an ancient skill set with the advent of on tap central heating’.
I’ll save you from any more detail. In case I reveal too much about how my brain works!
But you have probably worked it out already: these days I always load and restock the logs vertically in the fire grate!
Do I understand why? Am I sure this is the better technique? To be honest yes and no.
From observation alone I think, it looks, it feels as if the logs burn cleaner, they burn slower and they give off more heat. In essence it appears the logs loaded into the grate vertically burn noticeably more efficiently.
Can I explain why? Not really. Longer flame possibly? Longer flame = more complete combustion. Maybe?
Will I be telling my grand children that the correct way to load the logs into the grate is vertically? Because my Grandmother had taught me this and her father had taught her? I’m afraid there is a very real risk this fate may not only fall upon my grandchildren!