Wistfully looking back in a kind of nostalgic way, I remember my Dad being an absolute legend in my eyes when it came to bonfires.
Bonfires need to be had to prove you are indeed a man, its a rite of passage and once you get your first taste you can never look back, everyone has their own methodology, everyone has their own danger levels. I remember we had an orchard in the first house we lived in, the apple trees had all but disappeared when we moved in but historically it used to be an orchard and so the name stuck. There is kudos when your Mum tells visitors that the boys are in the orchard and to go round the back. Mum loved that kudos, she liked to be one up, everyone knew this wasn’t the case but everyone played along.
Dad had once built a shit tree house on an apple tree for me, the tree was massive (I remember) and grew out of the ground at 45′ so you could walk up the trunk. At the top the branches spread out forming the perfect spot for a base of a tree house. Planks of wood were attached in a haphazard fashion to the tree with nails, my Dad smashed them in recklessly, he was shit at DIY and didn’t have the tools for the job anyway. But he made a platform which at the end of the day we both sat on, he with whisky, me with a coke, he with a benson and hedges and me without. (Secretly I really wanted one, he looked super cool smoking that bad boy)
The next morning the tree was down, the weight of the shit platform was too much and so it had to go. He sawed and sawed with a hand saw for a week after work every night and on the following Saturday we were ready for the fire, ready to burn. We had a log fire but fuel for that came from Mr Atkins, he thoroughly believed the moon landings happened in Hollywood and stood by it until the day he died, theres many conspiracy theorists who agree I’m sure, but we’re not discussing that today, he also wore a black nylon full length raincoat all the time and was not a member of the swinging community, as far as I knew.
The day of the fire came and my Dad told me he was going to ignite this bastard of a fire this morning, it was Autumn and so there was a slight mist in the early morning air. The day before Dad had been to the petrol station to buy a jerry can full of 4*, when petrol was full fat and not watered down, he was smoking when the petrol was being poured, Gary, the attendant was chewing on a lit cigar while he was pouring the petrol, the petrol station never blew up, petrol wasn’t flammable in the good old days; FACT!
Dad stood by the pile of wood covered in brash, cigarette in one hand, can of petrol in the other. He finished his cigarette, snuffed it out, and poured the petrol all over the fire, walking round and coating it from all sides. He put the can a sensible distance from the fire, wiped his hands on his jeans and took out another Benson (he was a 50 a dayer at his peak), lit it with a Swan Vesta, and flicked the match into the bonfire. With an almighty whoosh the fire exploded into life, Dad shielded his rugged face and walked back a few paces, dragging on his fag. It was a good fire, the smoke was green wood thick and snaked its way over to Auntie Tuttie’s house and over the hedge to the canal. I looked at my Dad, he looked like a dirty Michael Caine and was really proud.
These days, I use fire lighters and sometimes lighter fluid but mainly I try to light a fire with paper and kindling. Behind the smoke, I do like to steal a roll up and think back to the simpler times of my Dad, the fallen tree house and the total disregard for health and safety. Childhood rocked and for that reason I’d like to nominate my Dad into the Legend Category.