Sunday, 1 January 2012

Fine food, fires and fireships

To go by the temperature, Old Year's night 2011 might have been in September. After a feast laid on by Lynn in the kitchen (where there was no heating and no need for any) we went outside to welcome the benign spirits of the coming year with our customary bonfire; and although the six of us were wrapped up, it was more from habit than necessity, there being enough heat from the fire to keep us cosy warm before, during and after the countdown to midnight.

On the stroke of twelve there were the obligatory hugs and well wishes, followed by the obligatory popping of corks – and that would have been enough to satisfy the exacting Hogmanay requirements of my five (Scottish) companions; but this year we had a further ritual planned. Earlier in the day, our friend Lucy had folded a small fleet of paper boats, and the idea was originally to launch them off the jetty, inscribed with our wishes for 2012. In the event, there was a brisk southwesterly wind and the tide was fully out, so even if it had set sail from the very end of the jetty, the entire fleet would have made land on Islandmore ten feet, and less than ten seconds, later.

So the lough was out of the question, and we resorted to an altogether smaller body of water. You may be able to make out a bucket-shaped object on the bench behind the fire. It's actually a turquoise-coloured garden trug, filled to the brim with water. Given the space constraints, we chose three of the sturdiest vessels, and I equipped each one with a mast in the shape of a mini sparkler; a strategically placed match; and a cargo of scrunched-up tissue paper. Before the launch ceremony, I gave each a spray of lighter fluid; and on Richard's signal we placed them tenderly on the briny foam and gave up our silent wishes to the gods. I tried to put a flame to the tip of the first mast/sparkler, but in the breeze it was hopeless, and the spirit-soaked tissue paper which was to have given us the grand finale, ended up providing a trio of fireships which blazed spectacularly for several seconds and then succumbed, sinking by turns to the bottom of the trug and leaving a slick of burning lighter fluid on the surface.

An excellent start to the year.

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