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Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put Melissa on the top?

If they want a papist agitator to burn, the village bonfire association could do a lot worse than me

14 October 2017

9:00 AM

14 October 2017

9:00 AM

They are building the bonfire already. In the dip where winter flooding sometimes creates a small lake, the wood and branches are being piled.

A massive board has been nailed up announcing that ‘No More Material Is Required. By Order of The Bonfire Association.’ Therefore: ‘No Dumping.’

But someone has dared to disobey the order of the Bonfire Association, and has heaved an old blue sofa into the hollow.

This has sparked an inquiry. While cycling the spaniels, I overheard a group of ladies stopped on the pathway overlooking the immolation site discussing what should be done.

The organisers are aware. They will be dealing with it. The culprits ought to be ashamed of themselves, for when certain sofas burn they emit toxic fumes.

I ought to be ashamed of myself too, I realise, because when I cycled past the site and saw the lumpy old sofa I felt mildly cheered up and thought, ‘Oh look, someone’s dumped an old sofa.’


Now I think about it, the episode has made me feel deeply inadequate. I wish I could attain a degree of normality in my affairs so I could become outraged by a dumped sofa. When I look at a dumped sofa, the only conclusion of any significance I can find it within myself to draw is that some other poor sod is under so much pressure they’ve heaved a sofa out here in the dark in a desperate bid to get a part of their life straight, and, let’s face it, because otherwise it’s £300 for a skip or dumper truck and if you hire a van to take an old sofa to the tip they will weigh it in and charge you more than a desperate person probably earns in a month.

I’m just saying, I am beginning to identify with sofa dumpers. And I worry where that will end.

But in any case, the wood and cut branches are being piled into the hollow four weeks in advance and every time I drive past on the way home — I don’t fully understand why — the sight of the slatted wooden monster slowly coming into being only to be burned to smithereens puts a chill down my spine. There is, I suppose, something very pagan about a bonfire, never mind one that begins to take shape a month in advance.

The board announcing it started out by saying ‘October 28’ in huge letters, but I noticed that, a day later, someone nailed a blank square over the 28. I can’t think why.

Was the date a secret until someone erroneously revealed it on the sign? In which case, why was it a secret? Who were they hiding it from? Or is it simply a matter of keeping options open until the weather forecast becomes clear.

I only want to know because the dogs hate fireworks so I will go away that weekend. Alright, fine, I admit it. I don’t like Bonfire Night any more than the dogs. I always think I’ll like it but then, when the crackling of the fire starts, I get the heebie-jeebies.

It occurs to me that if they were burning the effigy of a traitor from any other religious grouping — no matter what this person had done 400 years ago — it would be taken gleefully out of context and there would be Twitter hell to pay.

I amuse myself by thinking that if they want a papist agitator to stick on top of the bonfire they could do worse than me.

I also wonder, out of aimless curiosity, what will come off that sofa when it burns, and for no good reason I Google bonfire toxins and discover that a 1994 study conducted in Oxford found a four-fold increase in dioxin and furan concentration in the air after a Bonfire Night celebration. It occurs to me that Bonfire Night will become obsolete, not because they are burning the effigy of a Catholic, but because the emissions breach health and safety regulations.

I ought to have my own bonfire, I’ve got so much timber and other building materials piled up outside my house. Stefano has no idea when he will be able to finish the renovations as he’s fitting me in with other jobs.

The skip parked next to my car looks such an eyesore I have begun to disassociate with it. Perhaps because I feel so out of control, so helpless to effect a solution, whenever someone mentions it I find myself saying ‘I know! It’s a disgrace! When is it going to get sorted?’ I am thinking of writing to the council to lodge an official objection to my own mess.

In the meantime, I realise there are three wooden pallets taking up room in the skip that could be a non-toxic contribution to the communal festivities. I might heave them out there in the night.


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