I take the train with Dad and we arrive to the smell of damp leaves, and fine drizzle. Drizzle that turns to rain on Friday morning and a sinking of hearts that Saturday night's party will be a wash out. But it's not. Oh Bonfire Night, how I love it. Even more so when surrounded by some of my bestest. M arrives Friday evening, then Anna on Saturday morning so we can hit the charity shops, plundering them for china brooches and dog eared C.S. Lewis books before heading back to the warm kitchen for an afternoon cooking. My sister arrives later, driving from uni, fresh from rehearsals. I realise it is rapidly getting dark and I haven't yet picked any flowers, grab her for the company in the darkening garden, gather handfuls of still rain-wet chrysanthemums. Then S shows up from London with a box of his Mum's brownies, then V, fresh with tales from NYC, and then finally a jumble of family friends who live locally and who come bearing sparklers and bottles of wine and bags of marshmallows. Mulled perry is served and people shuffle to the bonfire, cradling the warm cinnamon scented liquid. There is the ever risky do-it-yourself fireworks display conducted by over enthusiastic Dads, rockets shooting off in haphazard directions amongst the brassicas, which can't quite compete with the display at the local cricket ground just spied over the neighbours' hedge. There is roasted pumpkin soup in mugs by the fire, then everyone piles back into the house to load plates with food. Coleslaw and potato wedges, mushroom pierogi and spinach and cheese pasties, chutney and this cheese and pumpkin cupcakes and two types of brownie, all eaten in the candlelit conservatory. Back out to the bonfire then, still no sign of rain, for sparklers and toasted marshmallows.
Past midnight, cheeks flushed and hair smokey, those that are staying the night pile inside and watch old Disney movies in the library. In the morning there is a late breakfast, Anna's muffins, orange juice, scrambled eggs and cooked mushrooms, and later a walk at the nearby fen, grasses tall and whispering, skies grey.
On Monday, out of the tube and walking through the park to work, my gloves still smell of wood smoke.
From the book I'm currently reading (wonderful), American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, a sentence which I read and re-read as it summed up so perfectly, although not talking about 5th November, why I love Bonfire Night:
I hoped it fell below seventy-five degrees on Saturday so they'd build the bonfire at Fred's party and I could stand next to it, braced by that wall of heat against my body, watching the leap of the flames, being reminded, as I always was by fires, that they were alive and so was I.