Bonfire Night was yesterday.
All day it had been pouring with rain. The weather slipped from misty rain to outright downpours, but from early in the morning until early evening the sky did not relent. One of the best things about Chris returning home earlier than expected was the prospect of attending the bonfire night festivities together on the Hoe. Last year he was away in France. I was worried the display would be cancelled on account on the unbelievably savage rainfall. Fortunately, at around five the downpour petered down to drizzle, and half-an-hour later had receded all together. I checked online anyway, but there was nothing announcing a cancellation, so we decided to risk it.
We caught the bus in time to catch up with the crowds heading towards the Hoe; there were much fewer people than usual. I suspect many were driven off the idea by the idea of getting soaked. However, the night air, unusual for November, proved quite warm. Chris explained Plymouth had been experiencing an Autumn heatwave, which actually made sense. Actually, that fact was dissapointing. I like donning gloves, hat and scarf to stand in cold night air. I enjoy the tingly feeling on the end of the nose, and cheeks when you’ve been standing in the cold for a while. I like the clear, icy air. I love an excuse to stand near the bonfire for a long time.
Writing of which, the first thing we checked out was the bonfire. There’s nothing better than the glow of a real wood fire on a cold autumn eve. We arrived at the perimeter just in time to watch the guy, constructed by local school children, go up in flames. It’s an odd tradition when you think about it. I mean, it loses edge due to the passage of hundreds of years, but essentially we reconstruct the likeness of a man we don’t know much about (terrorism and dislike if Government aside), and happily watch him burn. Did I mention school children made him. Anyway, not my point. Mostly I enjoy the wood-smoke and the glow of the fire, especially with a hot chocolate in hand and weird conversation.
There were children with sparklers, as there always should be, and glowing plastic toys which whizzed and twirled. Many people were chowing down on various fair-ground treats including donuts and crepes, and giant rainbow lolly-pops. The atmosphere was one of joy and community. At these events nobody seems to aggravated by anything. You can bump headlong into complete strangers, and simply exchange a quick apology. I do enjoy a helping of community spirit.
Of course, the main event of the night is the fireworks. I know so many people now, who, when I ask if they want to take in a fireworks display will promptly announce they are no longer interested. In all honesty, I find that somewhat sad. Yes, I understand the reasoning behind it. Ultimately, you are simply standing in the open air, exposing yourself to the elements to watch exploding lights in the sky. Yet, you’re watching lights explode in the sky! I could never quite wrap my mind around how that gets old.
They launch the fireworks from the citadel walls, which in itself is kind of exciting. The citadel acts as a current military base (the best place to keep explosives I suppose), and the walls are lined with antique cannons, giving the illusion the fireworks themselves are being fired from historical weaponry. Everything gets quiet as the moment arrives, given raise to a prickle of excitement in the air. Fathers hoist excited toddlers onto their shoulders, while other children gather together and stare up into the night sky.
Chris and I had been playing about on the hilltop, dancing to the live music and nattering. As the noise died down we huddled together, ready to enjoy the display.
Blasts of colour started to shoot into the air, backed by a dramatic soundtrack. There are so many types of wonderful fireworks, I can’t begin to pick a favourite. They seem to be coming up with new ones all the time. Along side the classics came a variety of particularly sparkly numbers, which I enjoyed immensely. One type sprung from the wall like dancing fairies, twirling upwards trailing magic dust, before leaving with a small, bright pop. Another mimicked the Catherine wheel, only without being fixed in position. They hovered in the sky whirling around and around for 30 seconds or so, before fizzling out.
The classics are still good though. Ever since I was a little kid, I have taken immense enjoyment from the little sparks you can barely see, which explode into the biggest and brightest of all. Nearby, a group of children were doing the same thing Chris and I were in trying to spot the little shoots shrouded by the larger ones, watching them rocket higher than any and watch them burst above. There are the beams that linger on, taking longer to fade, and some which tumble down to the earth reminiscent of willow trees.
My imagination often takes control, and revels in turning these reletively simple shapes and bursts into magical creatures and trees formed of light. That’s the fun and excitement still in the displays, because I’m able to engage with what I’m seeing. I think that’s key in still finding magic and wonder in everyday things. Don’t think of them as plain, with nothing more to excite or engage you, but look deeper into your own mind and conjure the beauty you may once have seen. Age can put a layer of dust on things which childhood couldn’t get enough of. It’s your job to clear the cobwebs. Remember when you watched fireworks as a child and the light dazzled your eyes and lit your face with vibrant colour. I used to love the rumble of the big bursts through my feet and picturing the tendrils of light as giant spiders (Cosmic spiders? :P) fading into the night.
I hope I always find joy in the simple pleasure of fireworks, because if so, I know I’ll also see joy in many other seemingly mundane aspects of life; crunchy autumn leaves under my feet and the way steam moves when you move your fingers through it. That keeps life interesting, and, more importantly, fun.