The last three nights have been taken over by fireworks. Across the country, household pets have hidden behind the sofa while the humans engage in certain madness.
I didn’t get to any firework parties this year, which was a shame. I like to "Ooh" and "Ahh" in the cold and damp, squinting through my clouded breath to see the brilliant splinters of colour and showers of golden rain. This year, Guy Fawkes’ Night fell on a Thursday and there have been 3 solid nights (possibly even a 4th tonight) of spectacular explosions.
Don’t get me wrong – if I was a Catholic I might take a different view. But I do love the fireworks. Not so keen on chucking effigies on bonfires though.
On Thursday night I was waiting for a lift home after a session working late. It was about 7.30-8.00 and the moon was out, shining through the branches of the trees. Everything was very quiet and rather pretty and silvery. Then suddenly I heard the sound of a giant wrestling tin foil and the sky lit up with jewels. I could hear delighted, shrieking children and smell that smell – you know the one you get on bonfire night, gunpowder and anticipation, mixed with potato skins burnt in the fire and sparklers singeing woollen gloves. I was whisked back to being very small, looking through my grandma’s heavy winter curtains at all the lights in the sky.
So much for a bit of nostalgia. On Saturday it changed into something else. We spent the early evening driving back from Lancaster along the A59, passing various towns and villages on the way. (if ever you take this road, go to Pendleton for a pub lunch). For the whole of the route we saw bonfires and firework displays. It really hit home to me that this is something we do everywhere in the country. Huge numbers of us at around the same time are standing in the cold and often the rain, shivering a little, cricking our necks to look up at the sky. As we drove through the dark countryside we could see pockets of habitation miles ahead because of the fireworks – like King Edwin’s sparrow, we flew through great stretches of darkness interspersed with sudden flashes of light and warmth and life.
We have been doing this around this time of year since before the Romans came. Guy Fawkes is a convenient excuse to retain the old ways, lighting the fires, keeping in touch with the earth and seasons and passage of time.
Now it’s really winter and we can look forward to spending time with neighbours in warmth and cheer, while the rain rattles on the glass and wind yells down the chimney. At this time of year we draw closer together, in this place, with these friends, instinctively marking the change in the calendar.
A belated happy Samhain to you all.