Sunday, 14 November 2010

Friends and Fireworks

I haven't been feeling myself of late. The temptation is to withdraw, stay at home and have as little to do with the rest of the human race as possible. I think it may have been Sartre who said "Hell is other people". Whoever it was that said it was not a happy bunny.

But last Saturday, Nov 6th, we had arranged to have a group of our friends over for bonfire night celebrations, that is, food, bonfire and fireworks. We've done this for the last 4 years or so, ever since we moved into this house. It's becoming an annual tradition. It was very much a tradition of my childhood, that we would have the family over on bonfire night, and feed them Lancashire hot pot, with pickled red cabbage, followed by parkin (a tea bread not unlike ginger cake, but much stodgier). My strongest memory of those nights was actually staying indoors, comforting our several cats and dogs who were terrified of the fireworks. My collie, Shep, used to hide, shaking, under my bed, which I couldn't bear to see. He also used to do this whenever there was a thunder storm. Besides, I was quite a serious child and I could never quite see the point of fireworks. I did like making a guy though, which we we would plonk out on the street to collect money from passersby. One year, too lazy to make a guy, we put my little brother, Damian, out there instead. People got quite a shock when our guy moved.

But I seem to be going through a second childhood. Just as playing games with my young nieces and nephews is much more fun now than it was when I was their age, nowadays fireworks seem to be a thing of awe and wonder. Maybe they're just better quality fireworks. So we decided not cancel our party. I also thought that seeing friends, spending time with people who I knew cared about me, might prove somewhat restorative.

I felt I was noticeably quieter than usual, but no one commented on this. In any case, the noise of explosions was so overwhelming as to preclude much conversation. Our garden is not overlooked by buildings at the back, so we could see, and hear, fireworks going off all around. It was a bit like that trippy scene in Apocalypse Now, where one of the soldiers has just dropped some acid, and is trying to make his way overland during a bombardment. The noise was incredible, there were a series of booms, presumably from an organised display, that were so loud it felt like we were under attack by mortars. Actually, when I was a kid, I was convinced that this date was spelt 'bombfire night', which I still think makes more sense than bonfire. What the hell is a bonfire, anyway?

But I digress. We did the fireworks in two bouts, one early on, then the rest later, after my friend Ella had arrived. Bless her, it took her twice as long as it should have done to get to our house, due to packed buses on the way to the displays around London. Martin lit most of the fireworks, which made me quite anxious until I realised that as soon as he'd lit the fuse he scurried for cover into the garage at the bottom of the garden. My favourites are the ones that rise high into the air, then explode into a shower of colours, way up in the night sky. I've never been fond of the ones that sit on the ground and spew out colours, fountains I think they're called. They do seem a bit lack lustre.

We bought a fire pit this summer, and it was lovely, sitting around it, waving sparklers and listening to various people play guitar and sing (yes, we are a bunch of hippies at heart). I felt buoyed up by good company, free from my worries into the moment. A friend of ours, Mike, took some excellent photos. I was a bit puzzled at first as he had this peculiar gadget, with three bendy legs, which I thought was some kind of device for doing Indian head massage, until he attached it to his camera where it functioned as a very adaptable tripod. As he said, it's especially cool as it's a gadget that makes another gadget work even better.

That was over a week ago now, and I'm still not feeling myself. But I try to remind myself that other people, especially ones who know you well, and understand you, are not hell at all, but can be more like the other place.

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