Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bonfires in backwaters

Well it started out as a cunning plan, P&S suggested that I get the train out to the peaks and meet them on their way home from picking up their new car in Sheffield (yes the long term car-free couple have eventually and reluctantly succumbed). The idea was that I’d meet them at Grindleford or Hathersage, we’d go for a meal somewhere and then catch the fire lantern procession and fireworks in Eyam.

Things started to go awry when I arrived at a very quiet Piccadilly. There were plenty of people mulling around, but something was missing. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it, but then it hit me…shouldn’t there be some of those big things on wheels around…what do they call them…ah yes - trains.

Now I can understand that there can be times when engineering work means that 90% of the station has to close, but really you’d think that would be the sort of useful information that National Rail Enquiries might mention when you check train times the night before.

Eventually I find the bus replacement service and end up on the outskirts of Ashton having just missed the hourly Sheffield service.

A mobile phone call later the ever-wonderful P&S suggest I get the next train to New Mills and they’ll meet me there. S instructs me to find out if the train goes to ‘New Mills’ or ‘New Mills Central’ and the guard confirms it’s the latter. Which makes it all the more disconcerting to step out onto the platform of a tiny station that appears to be situated alone in the middle of nowhere. “If this is New Mills Central” think I “how bloody isolated is New Mills?”.

Walking up the dark lane, New Mills proper soon comes into view and I feel slightly less like I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere (though this most definitely is Royston Vassey territory).

As P&S arrive we notice a growing swarm of people in warm coats heading in one direction. Using our best detective skills we figure following them should lead to a bonfire and our hunch is correct as we join a happy throng of people in the muddiest park in Christendom.

It could definitely be described as something of a local affair (presumably for ‘local people’). One burger/candyfloss stall, one kiddies ride, a fairground attraction with a big mallet entitled the ‘Kiddie Striker” (three strikes for a pound it boasts, which would seem to be excellent value, though I suspect the NSPCC might have a view on it), one tombola run by the local sixth form (S gave in to temptation, paid a pound and won a can of McEwan’s Export) and one bloke on a microphone hidden on the side of a path.

In between quality records, he announces that everyone needs to move for safety reasons as the wind direction has changed. Accordingly could we all please “move to the area over there”. Fortunately we’re walking past him at this point and so his gesticulated direction works for the three of us, unfortunately the other few hundred people are left a little more confused. I don’t think he’s quite cracked this DJ lark yet.

Still it was a fine effort, some good fireworks worthy of a good few ooohs and aaahs. The bonfire was quite spectacular too, a huge mound of pallets with some furniture (sofa, bed etc) balanced on top. P and I worry a little at the wisdom of building quite such a structure out of fast burning pallets, especially with heavy items atop and the lighting of the pyre at a single point slightly downwind does nothing to reassure us. By the time we hear the people next to us comment “let’s hope it doesn’t collapse and roll down the hill this year”, we decide it might be time to edge away slightly.

The predicted collapse happens, but fortunately in a gradual, gentle manner and no lives appear to be lost.

Sated we squelch back to the car (“good job we haven’t removed the protective card from the footwells yet eh?”) and follow a most amusing tiny lane along the valley side, watching other displays as we go. It’s a pleasant change to not be the driver for once.

And I’m afraid finding it hard to be a fan of public transport tonight…

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