Saturday, November 11, 2006


We've had some stunning weather over the last few days. Shirt-sleeve sunshine to start with, then white-over frosts as the week drew to an end. Crisp and dry, leaves on the trees have turned a rich palette of yellow, orange and gold.

So last night when a farming neighbour dripped into the kitchen with an invitation to that evening's Young Farmers' Bonfire 'Extravaganza' we were a little miffed to see torrential rain. That's Sod's Law for you.....

Believe me, an evening on a muddy field in driving rain is not my idea of a Big Night Out. However here was a neighbour who's not going through the best of times at present and we both agreed we should turn out and show our support - as did our immediate neighbours and their small son. So suitably booted and weatherproofed we made our way through the driving rain up the lane and across a field.

And there, through the rain in our headlights, is the bonfire - as big - no, bigger - than the average house. Every scrap of combustible rubbish from hereabouts has been piled high. Malcolm dowses it liberally with splashes of diesel, throws a match in and WOOSH! It's away. It takes hold. Flames race skyward, thrown this way and that by the wind. The primal magic of fire casts its spell and for a while we forget the rain. We are in its thrall. We feel its warmth on our faces, conscious that our backs are chilled. We hear its roar and spit and crackle. Gazing up into the inky sky, millions after millions of sparks are flying - like shoals of skinny orange fishes caught in invisible currents they dart and turn this way and that 'til spent. They die in darkness.

The Young Farmers have pulled a collection of stock trailers, tractors, horse boxes and sundry agricultural vehicles into a rough circle around the fire - wagon train style. (This is the Wild West of England after all!*). So here we have the bar - lager and beer, and the 'chuck wagon' - burgers and hot dogs, both doing a roaring trade. Slurp, slurp. Munch, munch. Very fine burgers.

There are fireworks too - only a modest display - but the usual array of fizzes, pops and bangs, fountains, chrysanthemums et al. We ooh and ahh. Small children stand enraptured their faces golden in the fire's glow.

We are wet. Our faces run with water as, upturned to watch the display, they have caught the weather. I am aware that the bits of me not covered by coat, hat and boots are sodden. And cold.

So we turn for the warmth of home, leaving the Young Farmers to the beer and burgers and the fire on the hillside to burn the night away.

*We are in England - the border is about 200m away, behind us - marked by a hedgeline and a change in road surface.

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