Friday, May 05, 2006

Thoughts on campfires...


When I was a child in Ireland, my mother usually struggled to cook on a temperamental little Primus burner, that had to be primed and pumped with determination before it would fire up - when it defeated her, my father would laugh and put it away and light a campfire. He'd let it form glowing ashes, then tuck potatoes in around the edge and cook some fish or bacon in a frypan. While we ate, he and his brothers would sing and play old Irish songs. These were the best meals I remember.

We moved to England in the 50s and my mum got a portable gas stove which did everything well, even cooked Christmas dinner. But we often joined the gypsies, who always made my father welcome, around their camfires and relived old times, frying fish in butter and hacking off thick slices of local bread.

When we first came to Australia we were delighted to find that the travelling showmen had a campfire tradition as well. The best campfires of all were those set up by the Maori Troubadors, a group of singers and dancers whose show attracted huge crowds during showtime. During the day, they would bury half a pig in a fire pit, and at night, they would light the fire and invite their friends to join them. They too would sing and play under the stars, not the country and western and romantic ballads they presented in the show, but beautiful stirring Moari music that soared into the night.

My dear brother in law Sonny Neville was a musician and a master guitar player. he loved our camp fires and we knew whenever he came to visit us after we settled down, that we would have to light the fire and bake the potatoes. Sonny would sing and play for us from his amazing pepertoire of rock, ballads and spanish love songs. When he died, the music ended for a while, but now our son Chris is learning to play the guitar, so we will have music again.

We continue with the campfires - they are mostly in the backyard now, but ocacasionally at the beach. I guess this is one tradition that will never be forgotten in our family.

9 Comments:

At 3:02 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

It's always wonderful to read these posts about your adventures, Gail. They are always so authentic and interesting. It's a shame fires aren't allowed as much as they used to be. There is just nothing like that feeling of "gathering around", sharing things. Makes things better again, I agree:-)

 
At 3:05 AM, Blogger faucon of Sakin'el said...

Pray never forget. At Sakin'el we are set up for Bardic Circles around a fire, but are waiting completion of the basement bath before scheduling regular 'fires'.
Of course, in the city we must always pretend that we are simply cooking marshmallows over a BarBQ, so our fire is in a large urn. There are rough-cut wooden benches about, and a large concret area for dancing.

Stories, songs and skits are just a breath away. The attendance price will be a couple of sticks of firewood.

 
At 6:23 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

That sounds pretty amazing! You will have to show us some pics at some stage!

I might sound clueless, but what is a basement bath?

 
At 7:25 AM, Blogger faucon of Sakin'el said...

Beneath our incredible house is a basement waiting to be fullfilled -- about 1500 sq ft with 11 ft ceilings. I plan to build in a guest apartment, a meetingroom/recording studio, another small meeting-room/bedroom, a shop, communal type kitchen -- and a full bath with shower. The key here is that the basement door is on the backside of the house where the Henge Garden, fire-pit, etc. is. As it is, guests have a long walk around the house to the inside facilities.

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

How very cool:-)

 
At 12:52 PM, Blogger sage said...

What an amazing piece...the power of fire, ancients speak of it as a god! Loved this, brava!

namaste'
sage

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Luna said...

What a wonderful tradition. Singing and listening around the campfire sounds just magical.

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger SylviaK said...

It is interesting to read about your experiences with camp fires. It is also part of our summer here at the Sunset Bay. Most everyone has a fire and just sit around and talk and drink in the evenings. Along the beach, people build large bonfires,especially on July 4th, but just for the atmosphere too! There is something about watching a fire that is very elemental to our nature.

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger Lois said...

I will answer for those of us Australians(Gail) who over many years have camped in tents,caravans,panel vans etc and have each night had the evening meal around the campfire ....A time most looked foward to
When in the safety of a park 1/2 drums from a 44gl drum are used but out in the bush a hole is dug and rocks put around the perimeter... an iron bar is straddled across the burning logs (Made by my Dad the Boilermaker) But often on days of NO FIRES IN THE OPEN we then cook on portable gas stoves ...
This is where the yarns are spun (Stories and jokes) and songs are sung....My late /former husband Mac played the ukelele ,my father the mouthorgan ...only old songs were known ....they are wonderful memories to have...I often think back when I open up my cupboard of pots for cooking and in there are all the cast iron pans,pots,woks,kettles etc...anyone needing any just let me know........
Gatherings like this may be dying out I fear as more travellers use the more up to date gas b/ques ...not the same...The food from the open fire tastes the sweetest....

Memories,memories the staff of life...Lois (Muse of the Sea)
9.6.06.

 

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