When I was younger, my family and I would go to a council run bonfire event every year – usually in Durham, sometimes in Newcastle: there would be food stalls serving an abundance of gluttonous, sugary snacks – huge lollipops in bright colours, baked goods slathered in sticky sugar, burgers with sloppy sauces and questionable meat sources. There’d be the occasional ridiculously overpriced stall where you could throw balls at poorly placed targets, where if you were amongst the very rare and lucky to win, you could find yourself the brand new owner of an enormous stuffed toy that would be beloved until the moment it became too arduous to carry. They were family affairs that, despite the bitter cold, helped you feel the comforting warmth of being enveloped in layers both physical and emotional, keeping the harsh sting of winter away, despite standing in an open field, watching explosions in the sky. I remember those events fondly, but now that I’m older, they don’t have the same resonance as they should – it was just a firework display with food stalls… nothing special, not like what fireworks should mean, what you longed for them to mean.
As I got older, I would become slightly addicted to people watching; so much so that I would walk into people, or lose my group because I would stop dead in my tracks to watch a small family: Mother and father, with a small child perched happily on their dad’s shoulders, or an elderly couple holding hands, standing so close together for warmth that it seemed they were enclosed in a bubble no one else could become a part of. To me, the older I became, the less bonfire night meant to me. I didn’t want to stand in a cold field, covered in mud, shivering despite many layers, shuffling from side to side waiting for five minutes of mediocre fireworks, before I join an enormous queue and shuffle impatiently back to the car, before sitting in a traffic jam, bored, tired and desperate for a cup of tea. You see, Bonfire night now bores me. Fireworks hold no resonance for me. Displays make me feel impatient and indignant; I don’t want to be a part of a crowd of people, listening to some locally known, predominantly failed DJ talk in that annoying accent only DJs know how to speak in; playing chart hits I don’t want to hear, standing alone, cold, wet and bored.
Yet, despite all of this, I love fireworks. I love standing so close to a bonfire that you can feel the soft kiss of its heat touching your skin, smelling the air, thick with smoke and fire, mixed with an abundance of different food smells. I love tilting my head to the sky and watching it light up with primary colours and hearing the generic ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of parents and children alike. You see, I don’t hate bonfire night. I don’t hate the tradition of standing in a dark field, watching the skies. As an avid people watcher, I became obsessed with my idea of an ideal bonfire night; one that evoked in me the feelings I got when watching other people – I wanted bonfire night to mean something to me. I wanted to be snuggled inside of a thick layer of wool and scarves, wearing mittens and leaning in a casually absent minded fashion into the side of someone tall and solid, someone who would wrap one of their gloved arms around me, clutching onto my shoulder or my hips, tilting their head into mine; unable to feel them, but feeling the pressure of our woollen hats touching each other – a distinct intimacy that I always thought was an unattainable desire, something movies created to make us believe that romance isn’t something that everyone can achieve or experience, but that only people who are truly in the know, people who feel the irrevocable bliss of true and comfortable monogamy, truly know. Our heads focused on the sky, watching fireworks explode, both of us occasionally sneaking glances at the other, watching the other’s eyes light up, a small smile tracing their lips as the explosion booms throughout the sky, the soft glistening of their eyes as they squint, enjoying the moment for themselves. A pair of lips touching my hat covered head in a manner that screams I love you even though the contact period is less than a second… the intimacy that standing in a group of hundreds of people can truly illicit in two people when love is their only thought.
It’s such a silly desire, because I have that every single day. I get kisses on my forehead often. When he wakes up before me, I am awoken with soft kisses all over my face; I am looked at constantly when I’m in my own little world, smiling at nothing or crying at something ridiculously sentimental on TV, having tears wiped from my face, for no other reason that me crying is upsetting to him. I don’t need to see fireworks to know that I am irrevocably adored, yet the selfish and childish person in my longs for the Hollywood style romantic situations: Spending national holidays and events together. Doing the whole ‘standing in a freezing field smiling at the sky screaming at us’, snuggling into one another, smug in the knowledge that no one in that giant field staring at a giant fire full of old furniture know just how in love we are. I want to be the inspiration for some dorky, introverted, lanky human who let her dad choose her practical and warming blue, peg buttoned winter coat that despite it’s terrible fashion choices, kept me warm and it’s practicality is still displayed daily by the mother who walks her dog wearing said coat ten years later, who wears glasses and has spots all over her face, who doesn’t quite fit anywhere, but longs to be a part of a team that consists of two people; who wants to be loved, adored and cherished in spite of all her blatant flaws… I want her to be able to look at us and think yep… that’s what I want. That is a blatant example of two people who will adore each other until they’re elderly, decrepit by a life well lived, holding mittened hands, foaming that the winter made their bonfire night so cold, wishing they were back home, but unable to because their grandchildren are just SO excited by the explosions in the sky, far superior than what they were when they were younger… I want that. I want a life and a love inspirational to others and events like bonfire night; the true romanticism of it to be an aspiration to anyone who believes in love. Bonfire night isn’t just a night of glutton and cold, heat and fireworks, an event steeped in a bizarre and crazy tradition (terrorism, let’s not forget that), it’s a night where romance is alive and that’s how I feel about the evening. Which makes it all the more bittersweet: I have my ideal human… he’s just watching the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra… So I am sat alone drinking wine. Sad that I didn’t get my picture perfect bonfire night with the love of my life, but so proud that he’s such an interesting, intelligent and well educated individual. He’s awesome and even though I didn’t get fireworks, I am still irrevocably in love and aware that I’m adored just as much, if not more, in return. Love you, Brain.