Posted by: lialeendertz | November 12, 2010


Kids, sparklers

Last Saturday late afternoon we went up to the allotment, kids, friends, and all. Everyone had bought a few fireworks. The walk up is always good. The site is just behind the street parallel with ours so it doesn’t take long, even with straggling toddlers. It’s through the lane, across a road, along the prison wall and then we’re through the allotment gate and up the main site path. It was strangely mild and still, and a few other people had the same idea, with smoky fires dotted around. It’s been, until the last few days, a brilliant autumn, still and dry, and as we walked up it seemed like every death-throes leaf was clinging on to every tree or bush. Plants I never considered to have autumn colour – buddleias! roses! – did have. Smoky, still and colourful. It was a perfect autumn evening.

We lit a fire in the brazier and got the barbecue going. The kids climbed the trees, and (I’m afraid) the women chatted and got the food out on the table: sausages, rolls, some pre-baked potatoes, chestnuts for roasting, chocolate brownies, while the men grunted and poked the fires. I wandered off and looked the allotment over, glass of wine in hand. The allotment is at the top of a hill and as darkness fell I could see fireworks going off right across Bristol. I could see my kids playing and my friends nattering and my husband…erm… poking. After a little while and to great excitement and some tears we started setting off our own little fireworks, getting through – I think – a couple of Roman candles, a misbehaving Catherine wheel and two small rockets before it started raining. Just a little at first and then harder, and colder. Very quickly we were all soaking and cold, and food was being gathered up and stuffed into bags and small children bundled into prams. We all dashed off into the night, our separate ways, home to electric lights and roofs and ovens. It was a soggy end to what was looking like being the perfect autumn evening.

I dont feel too sad about all this tho. On starting to share the allotment with our friends we all made a decision to use the plot as a place not just to grow food but to mark the seasons, celebrating summer with barbecues and winter with wassailing, showing the kids what the turning of the year really means and giving them the memories to measure it by. And the thing about doing such things is that they sometimes go wrong. I actually think that’s why outdoor stuff is so great, that knowledge that this enjoyment is on a knife-edge, misery and magic are at the mercy of the elements. It’s the reason camping is so much more special than B&Bing. It can be utterly, utterly grim, but when it’s good it’s so damn good: fires and stars and music. I have no doubt the kids will remember last Saturday, far more than an ordinary Saturday evening, just as I remember the time my friend fell off a rock on holiday and all the many times my mum’s van broke down in the dark in the middle of no-where. The night we went to the allotment for fireworks, and climbed the trees, and then it rained, and we ran home carrying hot chestnuts.



  1. I have just finished reading a book in which remembering events is very important. The characters often say ‘remember when we did this ‘ or ‘remember when this happened’ and they talk of places where they had such a lot of good ‘ Remember-whens’. I get the feeling that in the future you will look back on your allotment as a place of many fine Remember-whens.

  2. Lovely post and surprising amount to think about in it.

    Apart from the big, public displays where everything has to go well, bonfire parties at home have failure built in. I don’t remember ever seeing a Catherine Wheel that didn’t get stuck.

    And Catherine Wheels – someone being tortured to death by being tied to the wheel of a cart! Whatever are we thinking about? And burning an effigy of Guy! We have some odd customs! I put its success down to leaves. If it weren’t so much fun raking up the leaves for the fire, we might stop and wonder what kind of festival this is!

    (Pictures Just Pictures ran out of photo space so I’m continuing it at Message in a Milk Bottle –

  3. Goodness I have come over all emotional and I wasnt there. I think it is so important for kids to appreciate the seasons and countryside. I have been lucky with the cub/scout group the boys were involved with. They have very fond memories of rain lashed camps etc. We spend so much time preparing and organising and worrying about things but as you say its when it goes off plan that thebest time is had

  4. Sounds perfect, rain and all. Some of my happiest memories are of camping in Wales in the rain, going off on soggy walks. Something of that lingers as I tramp the local footpaths in wild and wet weather, feeling more alive for being out in it all. To share all that with friends and family, what could be better. I know the allotments you are talking about, my brother-in-law used to hang out there in a shed with a wood burning stove setting the world to rights with his mates. Magic.

  5. Your sentence about the intensity of camping is so right! I like the way that engaging seriously with life outside intensifies everything. When you are cold and wet and wondering why the hell you are there and inside in the warm it is truly crap. When everything comes together and the cloud lifts and you can suddenly see or you get the perfect day or the perfect night there is nothing better. We lose the peaks and troughs when we smooth everything out with central heating and television. I am sure your kids will remember this.

  6. A brilliant post, thank you, that sums up the intensity of communal experience. We have just started sharing our plot (quite a bit smaller than yours) with friends. The benefits in terms of children’s sense of freedom and adults’ ‘togetherness’ have been immense and brought us so much closer together.

  7. Your blog made me feel quite weepy with nostalgia. Not that Bonfire night was ever that successful for me but I do remember vividly standing at my bedroom window watching everyone in the field behind burning the bonfire I had helped build but was too ill to attend. Or the year when a spark went into a friends firework box and the whole lot went up at once – I can still see his face and the tears he was trying to hide.

    And yes – I don’t ever remember a Catherine Wheel that worked properly either!

  8. This sounds like a lovely evening. Nothing worse than damp fireworks though! There’s something so evocative and nostalgic about sparklers, I can’t see one without my heart tugging a little, I’m straight back to the seventies, all the kids & neighbours in the back garden.

  9. This sounds just perfect, even the rain. Lucky lucky kids.

  10. In theory your fireworks and bbq sound amazing . . . bloody weather! I’m sure you will have many happy memories from the plot though (including the night we went to the allotment for fireworks, and climbed the trees, and then it rained, and we ran home carrying hot chestnuts) 🙂

    I’m trying hard to instill a social aspect to our allotment site. At present we have an annual meeting and no other social event, unless of course you count the rush to the manure pile. BBQ’s and plant swaps next year if I can encourage people to attend.


  11. our lovely local firework display in the park morphed into a vast funfair this year, packed, expensive charmless and frankly rather frightening for the under-twos…next year we’ll make like lia and her chums in the garden – am saving this post to remind me how it should be done

  12. Don’t forget the delight that can be had also with indoor fireworks which we had again this year after a long break. They’re maybe not so spectacular but lots of fun and the smoke smell is so awful that the kids are guarenteed to enjoy it.

  13. Gilly – I do wonder what will stick and what wont. I bet, actually, now that I think about it, they WONT remember that night, but some other, random time with a detail that appeals to them more.

    Lucy – tha catherine wheel actually managed to go off in my husband’s hand! Nasty things.

    patientgardener – it is working out as really quite a nice way to get them out in all (well, most) weathers. Hope they wont feel too city-bound if we can keep this up.

    Janet – how amazing that your brother in law was on our allotments! And a wood-burning stove in a shed! Wonderful.

    Elizabeth – intensifies is the right word. And I like what you say about smoothing out the peaks and the troughs. you certainly dont get the highs if you dont plough through a few crappy lows.

    Ed – Welcome! and delighted to hear about your own allotment sharing experience. I’m sure it’s the way forward, for lots of people. we really have a great time.

    Arabella – as everyone is telling me how lush it sounds, I feel I may have overegged. We got really cold and wet and were all a bit miserable and gutted.

    nmj – Yes indeed! love a sparkler, me.

    Sarah S – as I said to Arabella, I’m concerned I may have downplayed the bad bits. But the good bit was really very special, yes.

    Ryan – You should do it. Build it and they will come. I reckon most people are up for allotment socialising, just takes someone with the energy to pull things together.

    Laetitia – we had a little do in the garden with a few friends last year, and I have to say it was lovely. The little one was scared so I was able to take her upstairs to watch through the window, and afterwards we were just….at home, near a bath and beds and all that. You can get quiet(ish) packs of fireworks too #fireworkadviceline

  14. Shedworking – ooooh…indoor fireworks is a great idea! Shall search some out.

  15. Here is my vicarious bonfire night, so thank you. We went to the inlaws the weekend before bonfire night but despite my protestations Mrs D assured me displays were on last weekend what with the friday being the 5th. There werent and it lashed it down all weekend so the only fireworks we saw were from the bedroom window. You’ll be pleased to hear I did poke the (indoor) fire, just to keep up the side for thr males

  16. My God you are sneaky! Getting me bought in to this whole outdoor firework stuff and then slipping in the ‘c’ word.

    Camping is crap – and stop pretending otherwise!

    Howeer, fireworks in the back garden, particularly with wine in hand, is a thing of beauty…

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