It was five years ago that we last attended and actually got to see the Fire Festival.
On that day too the rain had poured steadily all day and many a lake-like puddle lay in wait for us on the road into the heart of the West Yorkshire hills.
What is it about playing out at night?
Cold wind and black trees are not supposed to be friendly or inspire comfort…
As a child playing with friends we quite naturally want to ‘stay out as long as possible’.
The loss of light brings with it a frisson of excitement attendant on the haziest of notions that ‘anything might happen’ and this vague possibility is only enhanced by the bone white disk of the moon as it skids like a grinning skull through the night sky.
In later years how many of us get to spend much time outside in the dark?
There were no lights alongside the canal tow path.
The water in the puddles though still glistened and shone reflecting a cloud filled sky… and led to mobile phones pressed into action as torches.
The last time there had been unknown others with us taking the short cut to the dancing ground and the banking, lending security to our muddy madness which had left the crowds and the concrete in our wake as we walked into dark silence.
Unknown others who tonight were conspicuously absent.
Many years ago the procession itself had trod this path until somebody had fallen into the canal.
Would the tow still be clear?
Memory, playing tricks challenges us with an alternative route through the trees.
A more sensible route, less fraught with possible risk and danger.
In the daylight such descriptions would be ridiculous.
In the daylight no unseen horrors lurk in the shadows.
The sign had promised a five minute walk yet it seemed much longer, and yet, not quite long enough, before the gurgle of water announced our arrival at the bridge and a certain memory…
A train of compartmentalised light thundered overhead.
We were almost there.
Flimsy paper lanterns swung like beheaded ghouls in the trees as we approached our destination.
The first sign of civilised life.
A fire danced on the hillside left and dark figures hopped and warmed their hands around the flames.
Away in the distance, the steady beat of drums and pipes sounded as the procession made its slow progress to the top of the banking.
They would be here soon…