Scribblings -Bottling up the bonfire

Here is an excerpt from my book Cove Kid, which is the story of my early life living at Sandy Cove on the North Wales coast. This snippet is from Part 2, chapter one. I wasn’t going to post any of this yet, but it having just been Bonfire Night…

“It’s Bonfire Night again! This year our bonfire’s on the sandy bit between the prom and the top of Arnold Gardens. We built it up at the last minute so Shane McMahan wouldn’t come and nick the wood.

It’s a chilly, dry night, and soon as we’ve had tea my red mittens go back on, and John and me run up to Grandma and Grandad’s. They’re too old, they say, to want to get wrapped up and come out. And why should they when they can see everything from their living room window? But Grandma’s been baking, and hands me a tin of parkin and a load of dark bonfire toffee.

‘We’ll wave now and then,’ I yell as we sprint off out the gate and up the croggledy* road to the beach.

Dad’s already up there with Johnny Wilson, a tinful of fireworks, and a drum of diesel he’s brought back from work. They’re both broddling* about our super-duper rocketlike construction with big sticks, before slarting* diesel all over it and setting the thing alight.

After a bit, the whole lot is well and truly blazing, and bright sparks are bouncing about as new bits catch fire. Dad wangs in some spuds wrapped in tinfoil that Grandma has half-cooked for us. Then he opens the tin of fireworks. The littler kids are leaping like flames around him as he nails Catherine Wheels and Traffic Lights to bits of wood. They have to be shoved aside; Alan Wilson, Cousin Bethan and little Daniel (who says Gemimimo instead of Geronimo when leaping into our famous nearby sandhole every time we’re all up here). They’re all instructed to stand further back.

The fireworks fizz, then fizzle; spit, then sputter; whizz, then wheeze; crackle, sparkle, shriek, spraying the night with fragmented jewel colours: amber, ruby, emerald, brighter than the shades of setees in my friend Allie’s mum’s catalogue.

I hand out parkin and pester little Bethan’s mum, who is in turn handing out fireworks from the tin to Dad or Johnny Wilson. ‘What’s next, what’s next?’

We weave our names into the air with sparklers, and are told to shove them into the sand when they’re done. I wonder what Shane did for a bonfire this year, the thieving git? I bet he never hopped on board one of the rockets like I did, and soared above Arnold Gardens and Glascoed, The Circle, over the dunes and the new Asda, relentlessly chasing the diamond-glitter comet-tails of more expensive rockets, till Kinmel Bay looks like a map. My old school’s now no more than a worn thumb-print. Merchandise Hall, Peter Moore’s, the street-lit ribbon of St Asaph Avenue leading three miles inland to Bodelwyddan. From up here I can see the match-heads of everybody else’s bonfires in Kinmel Bay…

‘Jill, Jill…’


‘Does yoo-er dad av milk an’ sugar in his tea?’ Jen Wilson is handing round cups of teas.

‘Oh, yeah. Two sugars an’ just a drop of milk, please.’

I’m a good one for not squeezing out a teabag right, or going a smidge overboard with milk, and providing my dad with a proper pale wishy-washy brew, prompting him to explode ‘I can’t sup that!’ or ‘Av you made fotnit* tea again?’

The bulk of the fire’s down now, just a seething red hump of molten lava with bits of charred driftwood poking out. The old door Dad brought round in the van is still cheerfully ablaze at one side.

If I could capture these few moments, bottle them up, and untrap the essence in my bedroom (when Our John’s out) and breathe it back in to cheer me up when I start feeling sad, and colours get grey like old overwashed socks…if I could just do that sometimes, keep my bonfire in a drawer, or under my bed.

For tonight, we’re all happy: us kids, warming our hands round the fire; Chris, chattering about future dreams; Big John, and Our Little John full of bikes, bike-wheels, axles and grease; Alan, Bethan and little Daniel hurling themselves into the sandhole giggling and happily unaware of the approaching grey which will surely squeeze over them like old socks as soon as they turn eleven; Yvonne gazing quietly into the fire, with the mysteries of teenage winking back red and gold into her eyes; Jen and Johnny Wilson stood arm in arm, supping their tea; Dad busily clearing up old sparklers and dead fireworks, broddling the fire and poking out the spuds; Grandma and Grandad keeping their wise eyes on us from their front window; Old Charlie grumbling somewhere from the corner bungalow because the fireworks have scared Maggie. And me, taking all this in, inhaling the chatter, woodsmoke and firework smell. If I just had a bottle…”

*  Croggledy – an uneven, pot-holey road

    broddling – poking about with a stick or metal rod

     slarting – randomly scattering or pouring around

     fotnit tea – tea which is too weak




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