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The Gentle Author’s Diary 2

February 10, 2013
by the gentle author

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

John Moyr Smith’s Tiles 1

John Moyr Smith’s Tiles 2

John Moyr Smith’s Tiles 3

John Moyr’s Smith’s Tiles 4

20 Responses leave one →
  1. February 10, 2013

    the tiles are to die for, almost as good in the slow accumulation as your tapestry quilt. so happy to think of you and mr. p. basking in the warmth of a fire place so carefully put together by you and your community.

  2. Tina West permalink
    February 10, 2013

    Mr Pussy approves 🙂

  3. Patty permalink
    February 10, 2013

    Beautiful tile and stove, and your kitty too! Partial to black beauties, having been blessed by owning 3 during my life thus far. I thoroughly enjoy all your posts, thank you for them. In the winter there is nothing better than a fire and a kitty to cuddle. Patty/BC

  4. February 10, 2013

    Wonderful tiles! And yes, what could be better then the comforting glow from a cheerful wood-burning stove? And scavenging to feed it can be pretty good fun too.

  5. Rhianwen permalink
    February 10, 2013

    Good to see Mr P enjoying the fire too. Can’t get much cosier than that…

  6. February 10, 2013

    We have the same stove installed a few years ago – completely changed our cold north facing sitting room! They are worth the wait and the money.

  7. February 10, 2013

    What a lovely domestic scene and such a charming story of its evolution.

  8. Yvonne permalink
    February 10, 2013

    a much loved cat (or two) and a comforting fire = peace, relaxation and contentment..
    thank you gentle author

  9. big pussy permalink
    February 10, 2013

    hooray!!!!!! Mr Pussy!

  10. Hazel Parker permalink
    February 10, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author,
    It’s lovely and what a healthy looking cat. The picture is so good I feel warm and cosy looking at it. The comment about the Tapestry Quilt intrigues me. I will try to find it in the archives.
    Wood smoke on clothes smells great.

  11. Nina permalink
    February 10, 2013

    …… your words give your readers a daily warm glow gently author so keep warm by your stove with Mr Pusssy – Spring is coming.

  12. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 10, 2013

    You can tell when winter comes.
    Central heating or no, our cats get on or (in the case of the tom-kitten) IN to the bed with the humans!

  13. Ruth Bosch permalink
    February 10, 2013

    At long last, Cosy Factor 10 is achieved. The tiles are so nice! The stove is so nice! The cat is splendid! Such a happy intersection of elements.

  14. Mike Brown permalink
    February 10, 2013

    A glorious and heart-warming story of your wonderful tile collection and fireplace renovation. Mr. P looks very relaxed in the warm glow of your stove. Many thanks for all your stories; I look forward to reading them each day.

  15. Chris F permalink
    February 10, 2013

    We have three cats and a wood burner… Our biggest cat ‘Gonga’ (He weighs a stone!) has pride of place on the rug in front of the stove. ‘Ginny’ frail old lady with arthritis has my arm chair as soon as I move (or I squat on the chair arm) and ‘Scruffy’ our black & white new addition (Butter wouldn’t melt) sprawls across Mrs F’s lap with his legs akimbo! Cats & wood burner (and of course.. Mrs F) …. Wouldn’t be without them……

  16. February 10, 2013

    Just reading this article I would like to say I’m happy you now have a stove to keep you warm. It’s not much fun being cold in the winter because I know from the experience of growing up in an unheated old farmhouse. Most of my time was spent in the kitchen as a small child near the warmth of a small pot belly stove that was fed by coal.

  17. gary permalink
    February 11, 2013

    put photos of Mr Pussy on every post, you could do
    P.S Mr Pussy
    What a fantastic cat .
    Great Cat

  18. Bev permalink
    February 11, 2013

    I love to hear stories about and see picture of Mr Pussy.

    I’m so glad you are both now warm and cosy in front of your beautiful fire and tiles.

  19. lolagalah permalink
    February 12, 2013

    So many lovely posts — and the ones with Mr Pussy are the very best. Happy meows.

  20. jenny permalink
    February 12, 2013

    I spent a lot of money I could hardly afford on my new stove, but as I gaze at the flames and feel the warmth in my tiny house I think it was money well spent. I have no central heating or double glazing, and this winter it’s been a life saver. The cats love it, too. I made a hearth from garden paving slabs and mosaic tiles.
    ps you can get fireboard to protect surroundings from the heat.

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