Saturday, March 22, 2008

Murder at the Bonfire

There hasn't been an Easter as early as this for years and years and there won't be another one as early as this for years and years.

This fact has no bearing on Emily and Gareth's decision to spend it all at a Live Action Roleplay Event near Birmingham called Maelstrom. This is the kind of historical fantasy roleplay where you dress up in costume and become a different character for the weekend, and they love LARPing as it's called.

Unfortunately, because it's the earliest Easter for years and years, see above, and there's snow on the ground, it wasn't perhaps the best time to be spending it in a field and sleeping in a tent, as Emily and Gareth are, but they claimed to still be alive when I spoke to them this morning, so I didn't need to wake up at six this morning to worry about them in any way at all.

Last night there was an Easter bonfire at my friends' house in Headingley. Undeterred by the howling winds and snow flurries, David had spent all afternoon constructing the fire (really, he could teach Bonfire Construction at top universities). Finally, at the appointed time of eight o'clock, he lit it with one match and this happened:

Of course, it's hard to tell the scale of it from this photograph, but if you look carefully you will see that the flames are coming from an old Christmas tree. The tree's in the bottom right of the flames, standing upright: and it was as least as tall as I am, which isn't very tall at five feet four inches, granted, but you can see the flames are pretty high even in this picture.

About one second later the flames whooshed even higher and I was too busy trying not to be set on fire to take another photograph - but they reached right up to the third-floor window of the very tall house. Something to do with lots of oxygen in the gusty wind as well as the sap in the wood - that's the extent of my technical explanation.

The people in the top flat were about to come down to the bonfire, but luckily managed to take some photos of How We Nearly Died In David's Conflagration before they did.

After a while, the flames died down a bit and people ate and drank and chatted round the bonfire. An eighteen-day-old baby came and joined us for a while: she seemed to enjoy it and will grow up thinking it's normal to stand out in the freezing cold and dark when you don't have to. Good pictures in the flames though:

The round things are tree stumps.

Then the snow started in earnest and eventually we all went inside and sat round in the warm - particularly pleasing when you've been standing round in the cold.

Finally there were only a few of us left, including Very Very Boring Elderly Neighbour. I think she was surely the original model for Miss Bates in Jane Austen's Emma. She talks entirely in a monologue; has a way of holding forth at great length about dull distant relatives that you've never heard of, never listening to a word you say in reply, linking every sentence with "But" so there is absolutely no way into the conversation - - and then you feel guilty when you want to drag her outside and roast her on the bonfire.

I stood there, silent before the onslaught, like a rabbit in headlights, along with everyone else, and I was cruelly thinking to myself - and simultaneously hating myself for thinking it - "Say ten more words and you're going on my blog. Ten, nine - - "

What I'd like to do is to write a cruel and hopefully funny parody of her, but I'm mindful of the fact that Mr Knightley told Emma off for mocking Miss Bates, and pointed out in no uncertain terms that it wasn't fair. And I know it's not fair, and I generally feel so sorry for this lady right until the moment she's in front of me, when I want to kill her. And we did all listen politely, and she won't have known the thoughts of murder that were in our minds.

David's household are always kind to Very Very Boring Neighbour, and indeed even I have been known to do a hundred years or so with her in a fifteen-minute slot, listening to her and feeling horrible and hypocritical the whole time.

I hate feeling like this: I feel cruel: I feel tainted: I don't like myself for feeling so impatient, even if I didn't show it. One of the things she said last night was "My father always told me my paintings were rubbish". And then I thought, hey, Daphne, be more understanding, like you usually are and like you'd claim to be and like your friends - I hope - would say you are.

Then she talked non-stop for another twenty minutes and I wanted to pick her up and throw her against the wall. I suppose the crucial thing is that I didn't.


Blogger Silverback said...

Ok when you eventually do that, make sure someone is there to take a photo.

That'd be a keeper.

Loved the closeup of the bonfire. Didn't spot any vanities though. Guess they were all in bed.

2:16 am  

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