Thursday, 8 November 2012

Dorset Life Column
 November  2012

Last year,  my friend Angie suggested that we organise a Village Bonfire Night.
I agreed, and threw myself into the arrangements with alacrity, spurred on by Lily, who was quite demented with excitement at the prospect.
Jasper was delegated the task of creating the bonfire, a job which was initially met with considerable resistance, due to a very busy work load.
“I haven’t got time, you’ll have to ask someone else.” He said firmly.
Lily’s powers of persuasion are legendary.  One look at her cherubic, crestfallen little face, and he was off to the farm with a tractor and trailer, returning a couple of hours later with a towering load of wood, scrap and rubbish, which he deposited in the Orchard.
Jenny had provided some excellent fire works, Angie had made a batch of sausage rolls, and Mother in Law had delivered a huge vat of her delicious, secret recipe Mulled Wine.
I was busy coating apples in toffee sauce and listening to Lily chatting excitedly as she proudly displayed the bonfire night paintings that she had bought home from nursery.
“Look Mummy! Guy Fawkes!” she announced, jabbing at a stick man atop a pile of red and orange splodges.
I cursed under my breath. I had forgotten all about the Guy!
I phoned some farming friends in the hope that they might be able to donate a scare crow, but my efforts were in vain.
Like Christmas without a tree, or Easter without eggs, Bonfire night simply wasn’t authentic without a Guy straddling the raging inferno.
I drove to town to pick up some last minute shopping, and was still contemplating my predicament when I bumped into a friend outside her dress shop on the high street.
We chatted for a while, and I was explaining my dilemma when she piped up
“I’ve got an idea, you can have one of my Mannequins!”
I looked, agog, at the immaculate Mannequins in the shop window, smartly dressed in the Winter Collection.
“I can’t put one of those on a Bonfire!” I blurted.
“Not those ones silly. I’ve got some old ones in the store room. Come and have a look.”
I emerged five minutes later staggering slightly beneath the cumbersome weight of a 6”4 female mannequin.
Bald as a coot and stark naked, one of her preternaturally long legs was stuck out at right angles, as though she was doing the goose step.
A group of boys loitering outside One Stop sniggered  as I stumbled past them.
I feigned a lofty indifference. Their laughter redoubled when the protruding leg knocked over the metal sign outside the Barber’s shop with a deafening crash.  Everyone in the vicinity swung around to stare.  Burning with mortification I bent down to pick it up.  A trio of old ladies emerged from the Oxfam Shop and glared at me, their mouths puckered in disapproval.
Gritting my teeth, I continued the Walk Of Shame back to the car which, I reflected gloomily, couldn’t have been parked in a more conspicuous place, right in the middle of the market square in full and glorious view of the world and his wife.
An articulated lorry was blocking the road outside the bank. The traffic was at a stand still.
The car was full to the brim with sacks of horse feed.  The Lady Guy would have to travel Al Fresco, I thought grimly, as I bundled her onto the roof.  People in cars were craning their necks to get a better look as I lashed her to the roof with baler twine.
Several men appeared in the door way of the pub to offer encouragement.
“Need any help love?” shouted one of them.
“No thanks, it’s all under control.” I replied in as dignified a voice as I could muster.
It started to rain.  I was trying to force the rogue leg to lie flat but struggled to gain purchase on it because it had become slippery.
I yanked it crossly, acutely aware of people gathering in the pub windows to stare.
There was a moment of resistance, before the leg yielded with a sickening crack as it snapped off at the hip careered down the wind screen, off the car bonnet and into the road with a loud clunk.
The men outside the pub were doubled over in paroxysms of mirth.  A bus had to brake sharply to avoid running over the leg.  As I s scurried out to retrieve it I registered the look of shock on the Driver’s face.  It was a very realistic looking leg, I reflected.
“Good Afternoon Mrs Miller!” called an erudite voice.
“Ah, Good Afternoon Vicar.” I replied smoothly.
 Not a flicker of surprise crossed his face that I was standing in the pouring rain clutching a false leg whilst a naked mannequin lay spread eagled on my car roof.
“How are you?” he asked kindly.
“Oh, marvellous thanks. Just been doing a bit of shopping.” I blurted.

“So I see.” He said, casting a furtive glance  at the perfectly moulded breasts.
“Will we see you at church on Sunday?” he enquired gently.
“Absolutely. See you then.” I squeaked, diving into the car and starting the engine. I drove away to deafening applause, courtesy of the men outside the pub.
The mannequin was propped precariously against the AGA, sporting a long blonde wig from the dressing up box, when Jasper came home.
“What the hell is that?” he asked.
“It’s the Guy.”
“But it’s a woman.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“Looks like Heather Mills.” He tittered, helping himself to a sausage roll.
Two hours later, everyone was gathered in the Orchard, warming their hands around steaming mugs of mulled wine.
Jasper threw a match onto the bonfire.  The flames sprang up fiercely, just as the clouds parted, bathing the paddock in phosphorous moon light, silhouetting the one legged mannequin in all her naked glory.
Several children screamed.
“Good Gawd! It’s Joan Of Arc!” said Major Farquhar, peering through his Pince-Nez.
Goaty Bill arrived with a flagon of his potent home brewed cider.  No one knows what proof it is but it smells like paint stripper.  His fondness for herbal cigarettes is well known, and it was evident from the  terrified  glances he was casting at the mannequin, that he had smoked himself into a state of clinical paranoia, as was his custom.
There was great excitement when a small rocket fell over prior to launching, and subsequently shot up Mrs Lodsworth’s tweed skirt with a loud bang. She was very shaken, and understandably so, given that she is well into her 70’s.  Fortunately, apart from a badly burnt petticoat, she survived the incident unscathed.
The children had a marvellous time, their faces alight with excitement, eyes shining and cheeks rosy from the bonfire.
I looked out across the Orchard, where the looming shadow of Bulbarrow Hill lay in the moonlight, like a slumbering beast.
I breathed in the magic elixir of crisp winter air, wood smoke and mulled wine, and reflected on the words of Charles The Second… Dorset – there never was a finer County.

1 comment:

  1. A story of trials and tribulations ;). Love the effort you went into to make sure you and your family had a fanatstic bonfire night. Hope it all went well.

    Lucy, Bournemouth