Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bonfire Tales

Scene: A car park in a village near Ballymena. Around one-third of it is taken up with the beginnings of an Eleventh Night Bonfire made up of wooden pallets interspersed with tyres. Near the main bonfire there is evidence that there has already been a smaller fire. The car park surface is damaged. Household furniture and other rubbish is scattered around and one of the two entrances to the car park is blocked. Several young boys are clambering over the pallets and hanging around. Most are under sixteen years of age. A vehicle pulls into the car park, inside are two young girls and their grandmother.

Six-year-old child: What is that Granny?

Granny: It's a bonfire.

Six-year-old child: What is it for?

Granny: Well, there are some people who have a special day when they like to watch marching bands, and people called Orange Men and Orange Women walk in a parade and lots of people come out to see them and the night before this special day they like to light a big fire and that's what that is.

Six-year-old child: But why is it so messy?

Granny: I'm not sure.

Six-year-old child: When is the special day?

Granny: It's the 12th of July, twelve more days. The fire will be lit on the night of the 11th of July.

Six-year-old child: So it's going to be left all messy until then!

Granny: Probably.

Six-year-old child: Will they clean it up afterwards?

Granny: (laughs) No. No they won't. It will get cleaned up afterwards but not by them. They should clean it up but they don't.

And this is a village that prides itself on being one of the best kept in the area. Apart from the annual eyesore in the car park it is a well-kept little place. Ah well. I expect the residents think it's an improvement on times gone by when the bonfire was built in the very centre of the village and they lived in fear of their homes and businesses being burnt to the ground. It's an odd thing, this culture lark.

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