Once you’ve got a roaring fire going, indulge yourself in the simple pleasure of giving it a good poke. The poker is not just there to help revive a dying fire. It is best used when the flames are threatening to set fire to the chimney and you are having difficulty getting close enough to the grate to place it it amidst the burning embers. Use it then to swiftly reposition any lumps of coal which are slightly out of position or marginally off centre, fashioning a red-hot cradle for the final touch, a dry conifer log. Preferably with a dusting of frost, ice or snow still on it, as this damp coating will help add a pleasant variety to the smoke coming from the conflagration and may also provide a satisfying hissing sound. Before you lean back in the cosy armchair to take another long pull on that 25-year-old whisky that you have been saving for just such a moment, thrust the poker into the heart of the fire and leave it there. After a few minutes the poker will be red-hot, remove from the fire and plunge it into a bucket of cold water. Now enjoy the juddering sensation as it immediately cools and acrid fumes rise from the bucket.
By Jock Scot
Picture by Ged Wells
From The Book of Idle Pleasures (Ebury), ed Dan Kieran and Tom Hodgkinson