I’ve never been a fan of bonfires.
One of my earliest memories was of a Scottish winter night at the local bonfire celebrating the burning of the Guy on 5th November. It was cold, very cold. The smoke was strong and I didn’t feel safe, although I absolutely was. The only redeeming factor was the sparklers – which again I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan of, for fear of sparks causing me to catch fire and become the sacrificial offering. No shortage of drama queen moments in my childhood……
However, fast forward a few bonfire-less years and we now have more grown up demands being made of us on the fire front. We inherited a bonfire waiting to happen when we bought Paradise. It had started after the “great flood of 2008” when several large trees came sailing down the local stream and landed with us. No one had ever got around to burning them and we, through new developments in the vineyard, started adding to it. When the pile started resembling a medium sized house, we knew we had to take action.
After much procrastinating about what potential damage we could do to neighbouring vineyards should we mis-manage the event, I called our (very) friendly rural fire officer explaining the magnitude of the bonfire facing us and he offered to come and take a look. Setting fire to New Zealand’s premiere wine region was not something we were keen to be remembered for. On reflection, I couldn’t have sounded more ‘ towny’ if I’d tried , but still there’s a time for trying to act knowledgeable and this was not one.
When he arrived at the door, he had a oddly huge and sympathetic smile – which was nice , but confusing. You see , on his way into the property he had seen our pile of recently cut plane tree ( not in itself small , but nothing like our bigger issue to hand) and took to understand that this was what I was talking about. As he started reassuring me that this pile couldn’t in any way cause any concerns and would probably burn out within minutes, I twigged ( pun intended ) what he was on about and beckoned him around the corner where our bonfire behemoth was looming in the distance.
“Ah’, he said. “Indeed “, I said.
We tramped across fields to see it close up and thankfully ( for my pride anyway) he agreed that it was good to have called and that this was indeed a very large pile.
After offering many tips and tricks of the trade he wished us luck and told me to put his number on speed dial….”just in case”.
As a parting thought he said , ” Just be mindful of small animals running alit from the pile as they can act like mini fireballs ” and he was gone, with that thought indelibly etched in my mind forever.
So D day came, a still day with wind unlikely to pick up, blanket neighbours and set fire to many hectares of prime Sauvignon. Off we went, Lucifers and matches in hand.
I have to be honest. It was quite thrilling setting fire to it. No fear. Hours passed quickly just watching the destruction it caused weaving its own powerful way through the pile. It was intense and fierce. There were (thankfully) no animals affected.
We only had one minor ‘moment’ , when we tried to assist the fire get to an area that stubbornly refused to burn. Let’s just say, even the smallest amount of fuel can cause very big flames and a very loud explosion that can be heard from very far away….but that’s another story…
It took 3 days to go out.
Mission accomplished and yet more lessons learned.
Roll on 5th November……