I don’t know what it is about me and Bonfire, but the phrase which springs to mind concerns my inability to arrange a jolly good session in Harvey’s brewery. Every year I am fully armed with all the programmes; yet every year I’m on Grange Road when the procession’s on Southover, or hanging about at Boots when everyone else is at the War Memorial. I feel the heat of the flames, but by the time I arrive, there’s nothing left but a smouldering torch in the gutter.
On the plus side, I’ve never taken a rookie in the face, and I do get an awfully good view. Of boarded up shop-fronts, admittedly.
This year, I hoped it would be different. We mustered promptly outside the Kings Head, and to the sound of the band and the lights of cars coming straight at us, we followed the Southover procession up Priory Street.
‘Going at quite a clip, aren’t they?’ puffed Grangey, as we broke into a run to try and keep up. It was like the London Marathon. When Thing One objected to being yanked along between us, her feet off the ground, we slowed down and watched the parade disappear round the corner.
On the way into town we got distracted by the guy selling light-up toys – at least this year we got the laser home before it broke, so it was well worth FOUR QUID - and could find no sign of Southover when we reached the Cliffe. Then we heard, far away, a series of splashes indicating they’d thrown the crosses in the Ouse without us. We looked unsuccessfully for another Society to chase, then milled aimlessly about, following groups of people at random. In this manner we were swept against our will, first into the Volunteer, then into a group of Japanese teenagers chucking rookies, and finally into someone’s house when they popped home to get another sweater.
Then a woman said confidently, ‘Down the Cliffe now’, and we turned to see a DFL-FB family, in matching Barbours. We followed closely. ‘Jonty reckoned this would be the best place’, she said, stationing her group outside Spectrum Opticians. ‘Five minutes till the next procession’.
She handed out sparklers, snacks and drinks to her brood. When the littlest child asked for the toilet, he was told, ‘Pop across the road to number 10, Gilly said it would be fine.’ Thing One watched in awe, clearly planning to swap mothers immediately.
Exactly as the woman had predicted, the parade went past. We got to see everything, for the first time ever. In the ensuing silence, we turned to our guru to see what we were going to do next.
‘Hot chocolate at number 17’, she said, consulting her list, ‘before relocating for the next procession.’
Off they went, to their lovely pit-stop, and then it was just us, standing in the cold.
‘Might as well go home’, said Grangey, ‘We’ll never find the damn thing by ourselves.’
Beth Miller, 10th November 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Carly Moorman