Showing posts with label Bonfires. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bonfires. Show all posts

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Year Turns

After the recent stormy weather, it wasn't hard to fill the car boot with fallen branches to build a fire in the orchard. My son and I carved out pumpkin faces, threaded lanterns through the apple trees and borrowed bales of straw from a kind neighbour, scattered around the fire for seating. We put the stereo outside on a long extension lead, playing party music and waited for the guests to arrive.

There was a nail-biting hour or so, when it seemed no-one was going to come. My son kept smiling somehow as his friends phoned and texted, changing arrangements, re-making plans, but finally a friend arrived, then a couple more. An hour later, there were a couple of dozen youngsters gathered around the blazing fire, seemingly immune to the damp and cold, eating pizzas and hotdogs, drinking beers, chatting and laughing.

Much later, when everyone had left, I wandered around the dark, quiet garden, collecting whatever needed to come in straight away, leaving the rest 'til morning, stopping to gaze up at the clear, cold, starry night sky and enjoying the sense of peace and the pleasure of another successful gathering. Memories that I hope my son will carry with him when his life takes him away from this quiet corner of the countryside and into the wider world where he must make his own way.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Bonfires

They do things differently in Sussex. When I was a small child, bonfire night meant a family party in the back garden with silver fountains, Catherine wheels, the occasional rocket and sparklers held tightly in gloved hands. Yorkshire parkin, perhaps, and potatoes wrapped in silver foil, cooked in the embers.

More recently, bonfire nights have been large organised events held at the children's schools, or in the glebe field of the nearby village church. Big bonfires with spectacular fireworks and the chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances, if you can find them in the flickering light.

So when I was invited to a big display in a nearby village the weekend before last, I was expecting the usual jolly but civilised affair. We parked on the far side of the busy A road that bypasses the village and walked through the narrow streets lined with tumbledown houses and cottages, wondering if we could gatecrash the parties that seemed to be happening behind every lighted window and, if so, which one we would most like to join? The high street was a heaving mass of warmly wrapped bodies as people lined the route ten deep. We found a vantage point and minutes later the procession exploded into view.

Scores of people, dressed in bizarre and macabre costumes, with blackened faces, paraded along the street, carrying flares, letting off firecrackers, beating on drums. A primative and tribal ritual that has been carried out annually in this village ever since the gunpowder plot. There was, apparently, strong anti-Catholic feeling in this part of the world and there are a number of bonfire societies which plan this event annually. Secret societies where membership is passed on from generation to generation.

The procession retraced its steps to a large field on the outskirts of the village, the crowd following behind. The bonfire was lit, the largest and fiercest bonfire I have ever seen, forcing the crowd back with the intense heat it generated. Then the fireworks started and the sky exploded with light and colour, at one point a tree set alight by a maverick firework. I snuggled closer to The Man in the Woolly Jumper (previously known as The Man in the Pink Shirt), who has come back into my life, as, somewhat stunned, we retraced our steps to the car and the 21st century.