One of the great comforts of this time of the year is the log fire. We love a little hearth-bound conflagration, the present Mrs C and me, but we usually hang on until the beginning of November before reaching for firelighters and logs.
This year, though, we were ready to crack on early. Mr Egmore turned up in his truck in early October and tipped a tonne (it’s all metric now) of seasoned wood on to the driveway and filled the bunker with his best smokeless.
The chimney sweep came and did his thing with the brushes, somehow leaving the place cleaner than he found it, and a friend provided the raw material for kindling; four double-bed sized pallets.
As any man knows, you have to have the right tool for the job and for years I had been splitting the logs with a small hand axe; so puny was the thing that I might have been striking some of the more robust timbers with a wedge of Dairylea. But no more.
Now I have an axe fit for a warrior about to enter Valhalla, a weighty blade with a keen steel edge atop a yard of hickory. I can hardly lift the thing.
But since all this preparation the weather has turned positively summery and at the time of writing Axecalibur (doesn’t every man’s axe have a name?) remains unused. I’ve had to content myself with a bit of twig-burning in the garden incinerator which is, frankly, a poor substitute.
I seem to recall that when I was a nipper bonfires in the garden were rare, but memorable, often involving some ill-advised accelerant and subsequent running away. Bonfire Night was also a bit of an event. My sister and I would make a Guy out of various old clothes and stuff it with newspapers while a suitably combustible heap would be assembled in the garden.
There would be a visit to Chambers in Dereham to buy a box of fireworks – always Standard, never Brock’s, even though they were made in Swaffham in those days.
The big day would dawn, invariably damp and misty, and we’d wait impatiently for darkness to come. At the appointed hour we’d troop into the garden and light the fire, always surprised at how quickly a paper-filled dummy would disappear into the flames. Then the ritual of the fireworks would begin.
Dad would carefully remove them one at a time from the box, read the instructions on every single
one by the feeble glow of an ancient torch and then wave a lighter in the vague direction of the business end. This one-at-a-time approach gave each firework full value, but meant that the ‘display’ lasted four hours. There were occasional gems – one called ‘Shotgun Blast’ did what it said on the tin – but most were pretty tragic, especially the Catherine wheels nailed on to a bit of wood so firmly that they just fizzed away in a slow, ever-decreasing circle.
But we loved it all and were always sad as the final Roman candle blasted coloured fire into the night, sometimes to a height of three feet. The fun would conclude with baked spuds, beans and sausages. Good times.
Now Bonfire Night is a vastly more sophisticated thing, with music, laser lights and computercontrolled displays at even the smallest village affair. Safer? Of course. More spectacular? Absolutely. More memorable? Hmmmm
Dominic Castle Editor, EDP Norfolk Magazine 01603 772758 / 07725 201153 firstname.lastname@example.org