Sunday, 9 November 2008

Light up the sky with Handel's fireworks

On a wet autumn day, Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks plays on my stereo. Which is appropriate really, as we have just celebrated Bonfire Night a few days late with the village fireworks. The composer is the right choice but it really ought to be Handel's Water Music, as the rain it raineth, and raineth all the night.
We should have known; the forecasters and village soothsayers were all saying the same, as they waved printouts from the BBC website. Beware the rain. But we live in such a strange place, the weather can be completely different from locations just a few miles away. When the sun is shining on the coast just down the road, up here we're in fog land. However, despite the forecast we decided to go for it because of our wise old neighbour next door. In our house, he is known as Gandalf because we are convinced he is a wizard. He does not come and go out of his front door any more, like the little man and woman who lived in the weather house on my grandparents' wall, but we trust his hunches. Gandalf said we had a 50 per cent chance of rain. He felt the rain would pass us by. My father too, who is also pretty old and wise, said we would be all right, but he does live half an hour away.
So all afternoon, the village men prepared the ground for the fireworks while the women stirred over the souple as it hubbled and bubbled. The clouds were moving swiftly over the green by about 5pm. Things were looking good. Not long after the barbecue was sizzling away for a 5.30 start, the first few flecks of rain fell out of the sky like grains of fine salt from a salt pot. The salt sooned turned to large crystals as the rain fell in sheets on the gazebo which nearly took off in the wind and almost put out the barbecue. Amazingly, the punters turned up, almost in droves. Meanwhile, the police arrived, which was very nice of them - the community bobby and his community police support officer - and the wild children of the green suddenly became very well behaved. Minutes before Mr Grigg and I were due to go up the hill to set off the rockets , the CPSO asked if we had 'facilities'. Someone said yes, the village hall was open, as they thought the police were checking everything was all in order. The hall wasn't open and it transpired the officer had been caught short and needed to relieve himself. We gave him the keys to our house just across the way but forgot to tell him the seat on the loo would not stay up on its own. As the minutes ticked by, the start of the fireworks was delayed while we waited for the officer to complete his task, which took rather a long time. By then, word had got out to all those on the green who were now aware of the ablutions going on - and by whom - in our house. We rather hoped the officer was having a number two otherwise his appendage might have become trapped as the loo seat snapped shut. Someone commented it was just as well that when the officer came on duty he and his colleagues weren't about to go on a major shout. Can you imagine it? 'Sorry Sarge, I know Bin Laden is holed up in a fishing boat in West Bay but can you give me five minutes?'
After a while, the officer, who looked much thinner and relieved since his visit to our lavatory, emerged from the house, much to the delight of the crowd who were getting drenched as they waited for the fireworks to start. Some 20 minutes later, they were still waiting because although the fireworks had been covered up, the rain had soaked through the tarpaulin and made the fuses damp. Meanwhile, Mr Grigg and I were in the field above the church, scrabbling around with matches to light the 30 high powered rockets that were in piles in the back of the Landrover. As a spark from a match flew off at an angle, I had visions of the Freelander exploding and taking us with it. We were meant to be in touch with our fellow firework starters on the green through a walkie talkie system. But it was a waste of time because I kept pressing the wrong button and all I could hear was a high pitched whistling noise and then strains of Yankee Doodle Dandy. So we launched our rockets anyway, while the people lighting the fireworks on the green struggled to get anything skywards. By the end of the evening, some £200 worth of fireworks had failed to ignite, and the men debated whether to take the fireworks apart and adapt them for next year. What is it with men and gunpowder? Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the live fireworks were submerged in a large water trough to disarm them.
After that, there was nothing else for it other than to decamp, very soggily, into the pub for a warming brandy and wet flagstones.
Today, the clear up began, the ends of rockets like spears distributed randomly in graves all over the churchyard. A sombre note now, as we prepare for the Remembrance Day service, the bells half muffled in readiness for the service. Mr Grigg is half deaf after going up in the bell tower and in the process of putting the muffles on just when the clock struck noon. This is music to his ears because he now really has an excuse for not listening to me.
That's about it
Love Maddie x

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