The Gentle Author’s Diary 2
On a winter’s night in Spitalfields
It was two years ago, when someone asked me if I had been standing next to a bonfire, that I discovered my clothes reeked of wood smoke like an old tramp who slept by the campfire each night. It was the result of my pitiful attempt to cut the gas bill by burning wooden palettes scavenged in the street. Yet every surface in my home had acquired a coating of soot and I realised I could not continue.
It took a year of collecting old tiles, one at a time, to gather sufficient to line my fireplace and another year to find the money to fit a stove. Through last winter, I sat in bed with a hot water bottle to keep warm and the cat curled up on the cover, while I wrote my stories. Then, last summer, Jim Howett of the Spitalfield Trust supervised the repair of the hearth and Daniel Costea tiled it. And this winter – after a year without a fire – I have barely spent an evening away from my stove, inhabiting its benign realm of warmth and mesmerised by its fiery glow.
A wooden fire surround would complete the project and Jim Howett designed a modest one which suits the era of the building, but then we discovered that the intense heat of the stove might warp it and a stone insert is necessary. Yet this can wait until the summer because, during the years it has taken to get this fireplace working, I have accepted that I do not need to live in a house that is “finished.” I prefer its slow evolution around me, as my resources permit.
In October, prior to installation of the stove.
You may like to read more about the tiles