Warm your hands on this


It’s suddenly got nippy. I don’t know why anyone should be surprised, really, it is November after all, and my poor neglected garden got a bit of attention: the ceremonial burning of the Great Bonfire Heap of Doom. Just after the ceremonial cutting of the Great Hedge of Procrastination and Argument, and just before the last ceremonial cut of the Lawns of Wildness.

(I could have spent too much time watching Game of Thrones box sets. Possibly. Something of a refuge – what? – from current happenings in the real world.)


I quite like a good bonfire. Just before I went off to Uni I was chatting to our family doctor – my father was very ill, so we saw rather a lot of him – who had studied medicine at Cambridge, which is where I was heading. He’s dead now, but I remember him saying that for him Cambridge was always associated with the smell of autumn bonfires as he cycled to rugby practice. Why that should have stuck, I don’t know, but I often think of him when I have a bonfire.

After I’ve finished thinking about the neighbours, the wind direction, the fact that the hedge clippings are wet, the risk of setting the ash trees alight, the prospect of burning any bulbs that have decided to stick their silly heads above ground early…


I do try and minimise the number of bonfires, confining myself to – generally, barring emergencies like trees coming down in a sudden and completely unplanned manner – a couple of bonfires a year, but I think this one was my first since last November. Fortunately most of the material was pretty dry, but not all of it, ahem:


And yes, the ashes did get a bit scorched, but as they were just hanging on to their leaves by the tiniest bit, this didn’t matter a lot. And the wind even took the smoke downhill. Mostly. Where it joined the smoke from someone else’s bonfire – it was the most perfect day for setting fire to stuff, you see.

Bloody cold, though. So it was wonderful to get almost singed. Ish.


Heaven only knows what the temperature was in the core. It burned up pretty quickly, we got rid of the whole heap and then some (I roamed about with my secateurs, adding stuff, since the mini inferno was consuming things so fast and so efficiently) and then we began another traditional autumn ritual.

Somewhere in there is a marker. It is there, honest it is. Isn’t it? Where did you put it, P?

hot hotCould it have melted? Even the large metal tin the marker points towards?

Fortunately not.

nom nomI don’t think there is any better food than potatoes baked in a bonfire on a cold November day. Four Michelin stars at least, though the foil may let them down in terms of elegance of presentation. Cold butter, salt, spuds so hot you burn your hands. Perfection.

And now there’s no excuse. I have to do some actual gardening.



11 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    That looks very hot and must have been perfect for your baked potatoes! I’m sure you ended up nice and warm after all your efforts.

    1. kate says:

      When a bonfire just goes, it is perfect. P is very good at them, I must say, even if we often end up raking dangerously through the very, very, very hot embers in search if our spuds. I swear I got a singed fringe once.

      Worth it!

  2. Spade & Dagger says:

    It is amazing how a smell is forever linked to a particular person or event, such as the doctor & your bonfire. For me, the (not entirely pleasant) smell of boiling beetroots takes me back to childhood summer Sunday salad teatime. Whilst the smell of yeasty bread dough (I’ve got a bread making machine to create it for me!) always conjurers up the image of my Nan who baked with fresh yeast activated in a billy can stood on the warm pilot light of her brand new gas cooker.

  3. Green Cailin says:

    Loved this blogpost, I could almost smell the bonfire and taste the spuds….atmospheric Autumn writing at its best

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – ah, the spuds of remembrance. At least six months or so to the next one…

  4. Cathy says:

    How nonchalantly you dropped the fact that you went to Cambridge into a gardening blog! No safe spade for bonfires here so I experienced a frisson of excitement from yours, minus the heat and baked potatoes 😀

    1. kate says:

      Close your eyes and imagine the baked potatoes – what I’m doing right now, no more bonfires until the bulbs are all well amd truly over… June at the earliest? And that’s more toasted marshmallow season!

      (Cambridge was a bit of an – well, let’s just say I’d much rather have gone to art school. Fat chance from an intellectually inclined grammar school.)

      1. Cathy says:

        Mmm, they are yummy – and they and your photos reminded me of the huge bonfires my schoolfriend’s parents used to have with parkin and treacle toffee and fireworks as well. Oh and black peas too! Hope you don’t feel disadvantaged by your Cambridge education despite your preferred leaning towards art school… 😉

        1. kate says:

          Parkin! Treacle toffee!

          Heading into the kitchen right now…

        2. Cathy says:

          You don’t fancy the black peas then..? ps I had to google to find out what sort of pea theyactually were and hadn’t realised how localised a ‘delicacy’ they are

        3. kate says:

          Just done the same – really localised, don’t think I’ve ever come across them. A new-to-me thing to try!

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