Miss 13 wanted to meet her friends at Brockham Bonfire last night so I came up with a brilliant idea – why don’t we all go? Miss 13 can go off with her friends and the rest of us can enjoy the bonfire and fireworks display. I then investigated the Brockham Bonfire website…
I told myself not to be a spoil-sport. I’m always looking on the downside of things (or as I like to call it, ‘looking for what can go wrong,’ it’s a mother’s curse), let’s take the kids out, it’ll be great fun.
We arrived nice and early, didn’t have any trouble parking the car in a nearby field. The organisers did an absolutely fantastic job of shepherding cars into sensible places. They were wearing hi-viz vests and carrying glow-sticks to direct traffic, I just wonder whether next time they could refrain from waving them in such a random fashion. We weren’t sure whether to go, stop, turn around or what…
We then started the walk to the village. We’d been walking for about 15 minutes and I’d been trying to keep the kids away from the roadside ditch. For some strange reason I didn’t fancy trying to fish Miss 3 out of a ditch in the darkness (no street lights, of course). I knew we were only half way there and already the kids were complaining about being hungry. At least they didn’t need the toilet – yet.
15 minutes later we finally reached the village and Master 6 started sulking. “I really, really, really want a light saber!” Really? I thought. This is such a bad idea, I thought for only the 4th or 5th time. It wasn’t going to be the last. I bought two light sabers, of course, and the kids immediately started whacking each other with them. Sometimes I just know I’m psychic.
I gave Miss 13 some money and let her go off to find her friends. I was feeling a bit peckish so we investigated the catering tent. Burgers. Now, I’ve been living in the UK for 9 years and 7 months (to the day, as it happens) and I know for a fact that the British cannot cook a decent barbeque. I bought three burgers. As I crunched my way through the lukewarm burger I looked around. They’d done a really fantastic job of signage. There were giant yellow and black signs indicating the north and south ends of the green, exit and toilet signs. The Red Cross tent was easy to find and the catering tents were enormous. The pig roast smelled delicious and I thought it was a shame they were auctioning that instead of feeding me with it…
I surveyed the huge leaf pile. I’m not much of a judge of height, but it was higher than a nearby cottage so I suppose it must have been at least 50 feet high. There was a bamboo fence encircling it and as the crowds grew a little voice said “mummy, I need the toilet.”
As I mentioned, the toilets were well-signposted and the queue was not too bad. Later in the evening would be a different matter, but I was very impressed that they didn’t run out of toilet paper and the toilets stayed clean.
Some announcements began. We were told about the signage and some safety information. We were informed about the procession with the effigy of Guy Fawkes and we watched all the people carrying their flaming torches as they came down the road, following Guy Fawkes and the cheerful band. We were reminded that clapping and cheering was compulsory and when the announcer asked us what we were going to do when Guy Fawkes was erect I actually thought my evening was totally made, I laughed so hard.
Eventually, the time came for Guy to be erect, the torchbearers threw their torches onto the base of the leaf pile and the flames took hold. There had been very little rain over the last month or so and the leaf pile was very dry so it wasn’t long before the fire was well alight.
As the bonfire burned some messages were read out. Many people had donated fireworks in memory and celebration of loved ones and I thought it was wonderful that the messages were read out for all to hear.
As the flames rose ever higher the announcer informed us of the 2000 fire crackers on the top of the bonfire. WTF? What lunatic thinks it’s a good idea to build a 50ft pile of leaves, top it with 2000 firecrackers then light it in the middle of a village surrounded by 10,000 people??? I put my hands over Miss 3’s ears in preparation, just in time for the first explosions. I got such a fright I gripped her head tightly in my hands, but she didn’t complain! Smoke, ash and glowing embers raced into the night sky and as the wind picked up and rapidly changed direction we were showered with tiny glowing sparks.
I watched a few land on the nearby cottage and its hedge. These English are crazy, I thought. An ember landed on Master 6’s hand and he was naturally quite upset. I stood with my hands over two sets of ears and still managed to take photos and video of the whole thing. Perhaps mothers really do grow extra limbs in an emergency.
Then all of a sudden it was all over and we started the slow walk back to the car, slowly getting soaked in a light drizzling rain. Master 6 moaned he wanted a double-light saber, Miss 3 was hungry and they both had very tired legs but we made it back to the car eventually. The kids passed out within minutes and we had an uneventful trip home.
£10 for parking, £10 to get in, £10 for food, £10 for light sabres, cost to sanity – immeasurable.