Sunday, 11 January 2009

Big flames 2009

My neighbouring village Burghead brought in the New Year in its usual style last night: burning the clavie while walking it around the village, delivering new fire to waiting households (who have presumably put out their old fires in anticipation), and boiling up a damn good fire on the hill by the Pictish fort. And then, so I hear, a ceilidh of suitable proportions.

The clavie sparks and billows on its journey around the village but that is a sideshow to the burning on the hill (also of the hill itself). There, the clavie is stoked up with wood and oil. Lots of oil. Oil poured in until it is overflowing and then more and more oil thrown on, and thrown again. The sky-high flames and burning oil are awesome. The grass burns too. And the villagers fuel the clavie up until it falls and shares its smouldering coals. Intense and profligate, the clavie on the hill is better than any bonfire. Bliss.

No distant grandstand view for me: I eased my way into the crowd on the hill, as near as I dared. I wanted the heat, the sparks, the black smoke too if it came my way (and it did). Firstcomers cannot possibly know what to expect. Two guys behind me started up a conversation just as the clavie was being set in place: "Your first time?" "Yeah, and you?" "Yeah." And then stunned silence when the first oil was thrown. Their lives will never be the same.

Satisfied, I went to the offie on my way home. The shop assistants expect the rush on this, the busiest night of the year. And they always know who has been on the hill: the clavie leaves its mark, if only with soot. Straight home to the bath for me.

Sometimes, smouldering just isn't enough. Big flames are needed once in a while!

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