the second day of firing


the morning starts early; I am on the five am shift for the whole firing, and last night Gas took the two concurrent night shifts, so he was looking very weary when I got here. a simple task; continue to put two sticks on the fire every time it dies down, keep the flame bright, but don’t let the fire move any further into the fire mouth. he retires to the summer house.


the thrush seems to be singing from just above the kiln, and the squeaking, twittering titmice executing a wall of death in the spruce all around. I try to find words for his song. each note is separate, not like the blackbird’s warble, and varies from a rich contralto to a scribbling high-pitched flute.

piu, piu, piu, teliel, piel, piel, piel,

rrrrrrr like a xylophone up the scale,

a downward whistle,

wet, wet, wet,

ding, ding, ding,

a rich contralto bubbling, then a spray of staccato notes. always with a gap between each phrase, as though he is listening for a reply. then he stops, and I think, that’s it, he’s finished for the morning, but after a few minutes he starts up again.

a pheasant alarums, pigeons flap heavily in the branches around, and coo. there is a young robin and a wren hopping around the stacks of split logs, the wren emits a beady string of little trilling clicky alarm calls, the titmice squeak like so many crickets, but the thrush is king of the wood. I hear a roe deer’s hoarse bark four or five times.

as full daylight approaches there are buzzards mewing above, and the roar of traffic on the A41 begins to be audible. the thrush falls silent for a while. there is sunshine and looking up through the many-fingered network of spruce branches I can see pale blue sky. away from the fire the air is still chilly in the wood.

you tend the fire, keep the flame bright, and the sparks fly into the kiln. the long questing tongue of the fire starts to look for pots to lap. time passes slowly, between the wood you place carefully and the waiting for it to burn. this is the pulse of it, place two sticks, watch them burn down, place two sticks, contrast to the world of traffic a mile away, and the jets overhead, this is a timeless place and task.


tonight Ko returned to take the evening shift, and the fire has grown dramatically, it really begins to look like a firing now, the wood fills the whole of the bottom fire mouth. he is very industrious, working away with the log splitter in between stoking and bustling up and down the paths carrying whole logs and bundles of split ones. a perfect evening, still and sunlit. the dogs and I retire early to catch up on some sleep, with the four-thirty alarm set.