The weekend just gone (I’m rushing to get this posted on a Friday) was quite possibly one of the best for a very long time, and yet was so subtle in its joy, so filled with quiet, gentle pleasures, that I hardly realized how good it had been until early Monday morning when I was walking Lupe across the fields and reflecting.
It all kicked off with Bonfire Night, the backdrop to so many of my best childhood memories. Decades on, just the hint of gunpowder on the wind and I’m back in that steadily climbing excitement of foraging wood, building the best fire in the neighbourhood and then guarding it against the threat of theft or sabotage by rival gangs. Bonfire night was so bad-ass back then, with its all-too-real danger of being burned alive, hideously scarred or just lured away from our parents in the dark. These were the days when teenage boys hurled lit ‘bangers’ into the crowd; and the crowd considered it an acceptable annoyance.
Now, as we join the slow, wrapped-up-warm snake of villagers winding its way up the hill, I watch my twelve year old storing up his own memories of Bonfire Night as the annual village fireworks display becomes a sort of outdoor, cold, masked ball. Everyone we know is here, but so wrapped up are they in woolly hats and mufflers, so cloaked in darkness, that we hardly know them until they’re upon us.
Later, we ate outdoors around the bonfire, with burning faces and freezing feet, asking ourselves what it is, exactly, about fire that fascinates us so. We had no answers, we probably never will, we just accept that it does.
The next day was Remembrance Sunday, a day I’ve loved since I was young, mainly because its cheesy patriotism reaches out to the drama queen in me, but also because it’s an occasion, like Guy Fawkes Night, when the community comes together for a single purpose. Later, in the glorious afternoon sunshine, six of us went running. Golden and warm, with berries hanging jewel-like in the hedgerow, it was the perfect late autumn day. I completed my first ever 10k. We ate roast pheasant and toffee apple pudding for dinner.
So there you have it, warmed by memories of my own, I caught a glimpse into those of my son. With good food, a blazing fire and warm, spiced wine, I was surrounded by people I’ve spent the last decade learning to know and care for. There was time with my family, and a new personal best.
We have a tendency, I think, to be continually looking forward, waiting for the next big event: a big holiday, Christmas, a promotion at work, exams being over, the launch of the mass market paperback (eek!) and by continually doing so, we sometimes lose sight of what’s offered to us in the here and now.
But last weekend reminded me that life can bring precious gifts when we least expect them, and that a chill, perfectly ordinary, weekend in November can be considered one of the best of times.