Why Fircone Books?
Some of the most compelling memories I have of my childhood are of staying with my grandparents in Dorset. Their cottage stood in a forest, at the end of a long, pot-holey track through pine trees and dark tunnels of rhododendron.
During these stays I sometimes went deeper into the forest with my younger brother, in search of fir cones to burn on my grandparents’ fires. My granny was especially keen on what she called ‘squirrel nuts’ – the apple core-like remnants of fir cones chiselled by the teeth of squirrels. These, she insisted, burned especially well.
While fir-coning, my brother and I would climb the pine trees where the growth was densest, right up to the very tops, so that we could look out over the rest of the forest. The trees grew so close together you could let your weight bend the top of your tree over to meet with the next one along, and in this way you could move swayingly from tree to tree high above the ground.
In 2008, long after my grandparents had died, I drove back to their cottage in the forest. I had a slightly crazy idea that I might climb a tree for old time’s sake; even try to repeat the trick of changing trees high up. But when I got there the trees had changed; they were bigger now, and had lost their climbable lower limbs. They’d also been thinned out and now stood further apart. I drank some tea from a thermos and took the dog for a walk. Bedded down in the pine needles I found a couple of ancient fir cones. I took them back to the car and drove home.
My wife Su and I set up Fircone Books in April 2009 because we are passionate about books. Su has worked for a number of publishers, mainly in sales and marketing; and I have worked as a freelance writer and photographer, and as a conservation officer. For more than ten years I have researched, written about and given talks on church art and architecture. My book The Medieval Church Screens of the Southern Marches was published in 2006. We have two young children, and through reading to them our delight in children’s books – especially illustrated children’s books – has also grown.
We set up Fircone Books to publish both: books on church art and architecture, and children’s illustrated books.