Sunday, November 05, 2006

Burn baby burn

When I moved to the UK I had to get used to a mostly bonfire-less halloween - instead we had Bonfire Night a few days later. Several villages in Devon have developed their own unique traditions for celebrating. In Ottery St Mary it's the night of the tar barrels - a crowd of thousands line the village and try to stay out of the way as people run through with flaming tar barrels on their backs. In the village of Shebbear they 'turn the Devil's stone' (which weighs about one tonne) to ensure good fortune for the coming year.

My favourite celebration is in Sticklepath, where a massive stage is built in a little paddock in Finch Foundry. A surreal play ensues, with huge papier mache figures, maybe some Abba music, and a plot that no-one can really follow. Now, the year I went the stage was an ice palace; the play featured flying horses, some disco divas, and a Mommy and baby dragon. It ended with a firework display, so everyone gazed upwards for a bit. When I looked down I noticed that baby dragon had caught on fire. In fact, the whole stage was going up in flames.

And that's the point. They build this fabulous set, and it becomes the bonfire at the end of the night. No better place to have a bonfire than in a teeny paddock, surrounded by ancient protected trees - and eighty fire officers.

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