Last Saturday, the 23rd June, was Bonfire Night.
It still seems strange to have a bonfire on practically the longest day of the year, but after living in Ireland for so long, I've grown to love it - although I have to say, I miss the fireworks!
It is St John's Eve, the 23rd June, but before the Catholic Church hijacked it, of course Bonfire Night was really about celebrating the summer solstice.
Perhaps some people still say prayers over their crops, or take ashes from the fire to spread on their land as a blessing. People may still eat 'Goody' - a dish made with bread and milk, sugar and spice; but these days, Midsummer is mostly about family get-togethers, having a bit of a knees-up and lots of food and drink.
Of course, bonfires are illegal in Ireland, but as a country, we don't let a little thing like that stand in our way.
On Bonfire Night, the plumes of smoke arise like signals in every direction. And just as in England in November, you would have seen the bonfire sites being stacked with old timber and pallets and goodness knows what, for days in advance.
We don't need old pallets for our bonfire. It's the one chance - well, there is always Hallowe'en of course - to burn a mountain of garden waste that has accumulated like the Tower of Babel for six months or more.
|Other bonfires, other years|
What about composting, I hear you cry!
Well - composting is all well and good, but for one thing, the heaps don't get hot enough for long enough to do the trick.. Woody prunings (of which we have bushel loads) never breal down imto compost, and, well - this is the north west of Ireland for goodness sake! - in this climate it takes about a squillion years, and more manpower than we can muster, to turn all our waste vegetation into fine, dark tilth.
There was one year when I thought we really had cracked it at long last.
Joyfully I spread my crumbly, black gold over the vegetable beds, and stood back in proud admiration.
Three weeks later I had a fine, healthy, infant lawn.
However, this year we didn't have a bonfire.
It rained - really rained, as you may have read on my last post - right through to Sunday morning.
It did it again last night, and the night before.
We measure rain very scientifically in this household.
It's how full the dog bowls are. Model Dog has an old frying pan for her bowl (handle removed), and this morning it was full to the brim. Again.
Mind you - I think we are lucky - my great friend, DodoWoman (like CatWoman, but less extinct) had to
rush to Belfast today to rescue her tenant from her flooded property. I don't think she had to go in with a rowing boat, but it was all pretty dire nonetheless. And Cork - scene of ghastly floods in 2009 - has been washed out again, poor city.
So having no bonfire is a small price to pay really.
It just means the Tower of Babel still stands!
|Our favourite beach|
But all is not woe.
Despite the teeming night and soft morming, this afternoon has been a real summer's afternoon.
Sunshine and clouds and the warm breath of the south kissing midsummer softly goodbye.
It was a pleasure to be outside.
We went to our favourite beach and rambled along it for two hours. There was no one else there.
I gathered shells as we drifted along, and the In-Charge found a tangled lump of washed-up rope which he happily sat and unravelled.
The dogs swan and rolled in the sand and were too lazy to chase the seagulls.
|The beach yields trophies|
Eventually we got to the rocks at the far end.
'Have you, by any chance,' I asked the In-Charge, 'got a picnic hamper in your jacket pocket?'
I was quite ready to sit there for another hour, drinking tea and eating cake before moving seamlessly onto a bottle of white wine, chilled nicely in one of the rock pools.
Sadly the answer was no, but it didn't really matter.
Just being there was enough.
We both felt as unravelled and liberated as the In-Charge's skein of rope.
|What a sky!|