Every year, some friends of mine throw a Firework Party to recognise Guy Fawkes’ Night. There’s a certain irony here when you consider what Fawkes was trying to do, because one of them – Phil – actually works in the Houses of Parliament.
Phil and his wife Selina have busy lives and though we sometimes see them out and about, they don’t do much formal socialising. In fact, Selina always tells me never to invite them to any social events because with jobs and a substantial family, they just don’t have time. The Firework Party is their one concession to such formal socialising and it has been a fixture on the calendar for many years.
Phil & Selina live in a large semi-detached about 5 minutes walk from here and my main recollection of the early Parties we attended was that the place just seemed to be overrun with kids – the house was full of them, the garden was full of them; they were everywhere.
The routine for the event seems to have been set in tablets of stone and handed down off the mountain because it has never varied. Phil buys a substantial amount of fireworks and sets them up in the garden. Everyone is summoned outside and the fireworks are set off by Phil alone. Sparklers are then dished out to the kids and anyone else who’s interested and these are lit and duly waved about. Everyone then retreats indoors. Bottles of wine and beer are cracked, the kids are supplied with burgers and hot dogs whilst the adults eat Selina’s menu (again it has never varied) of Venison Casserole with Red Cabbage and Baked Potatoes, followed by a baked Sticky Toffee Pudding.
And every year it’s great….but it has changed. What has happened is that most of the kids that once packed the house have now grown up and left for University or elsewhere, so now, there are more adults than children. However, we all still show up and I see the same faces every year, but I never see them anywhere else…it is kind of weird, I must say as we all live in Kings Heath or adjoining Moseley.
Last night’s fireworks were particularly spectacular because, after years of diligent experimentation, Phil finally seems to have cracked The Catherine Wheel Conundrum (Hmm…sounds like one of those potboiler Robert Ludlum novels) These flat circular squibs are nailed to a tree or fence and once lit, the idea is that they spin on the nail, spraying sparks everywhere. Over the years, Phil has had his travails with these things; typically, he would light them and they would burn furiously without rotating or, even worse, start rotating and then ‘get stuck’. However, whether he’s using graphite coated nails, black magic, the force of gravity or whatever, last night’s Catherine Wheels were an almost unmitigated triumph, spinning faultlessly on the fence (and probably scorching next door’s forsythia).
Another triumphant Catherine Wheel event
So, great entertainment, lovely food and copious amounts of wine & beer plus good conversation – but I still felt like a fraud, really, without a child in tow. There were children there, of course, most of them mates of Josh, (Phil & Selina’s youngest) but he and all his mates are about 6 feet tall and have comically deep voices. What made it even more comical was that they all did what kids always do at firework displays, pushing to the front to get the best view. Which was fine except that most of the adults then couldn’t see past/over them and had to move to the side to see the display.
Actually, I was heartened to discover that nostalgia for lost children and that defining calendar of childhood events – Guy Fawkes’, Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays + Birthdays – isn’t a one-way street populated by ’empty nesters’ like me. Yesterday, I was speaking to the Princess up in Mancunia and when I told her where I was going last night, she cried out with a genuine pang of anguish for innocence lost. I’m sure it was only momentary for her – which is as it should be for a 19-year old. For me, the sense of loss lingers a little – which, equally, I guess is inevitable for a blogging fifty-something who misses his girl.