At this time of the year we are aware that we have entered the winter season. The winds are blowing strongly and most of the leaves have fallen away from the trees, leaving them bare and lifeless looking. It is a time to close in, shut the curtains and stoke up the fire.
When I was small we had an open coal fire. By now my mother would have the coal bunker filled with lumps of black shiny coal. She bought what she could afford, sometimes a luxury brand of coal, sometimes coke and sometimes a mixture of both. I used to watch her light the fire in the morning. First she would rake out the ashes from the day before. These would go into the garden. Next she would put a layer of newspaper and small sticks in the grate and on top of that a layer of the coal. She lit the newspaper with a small flare and that would light the wood. The wood, once it got going, would set light to the coal and then the trick was to keep it going and not let it go out. For that you needed a draft up the chimney. That was provided by a large sheet of newspaper held against the fireplace space. A fast draft was sent up the chimney, often accompanied by a loud roar, which I found very frightening.
That usually did the trick and within half an hour the room was warmer. Of course we had to keep the fire fed with coal all day but it provided a very comfortable warmth which I remember vividly to this day.
I always try to have some sort of small fire in the house on a cold night. Even the humble candle can give out the effect of warmth - so important to our well being.