Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UK Adventure part 4: Bonfire Night, and A Farewell to Blighty

One of the reasons we decided to stay the second night in Otley was that they were holding a bonfire.

I'm not sure I can convey how excited I was by this -- I mean, I love a small town celebration, I love festivals, and the only other time I was in the UK on Bonfire Night we went to Lewes for their SPECTACULAR fire parade. Don't get me wrong -- Lewes is THE place to go for Bonfire Night ... but I wanted to see a more traditional celebration. And Otley did not disappoint!

We had spotted the beginnings of the bonfire the day before while we wandered around town:

On the night of the 5th, all bundled up against the bitter cold, we made our way to the Otley RUFC grounds to find a crowd of happy people, a food stall selling pies and peas (traditional bonfire fare) as well as soups. And three bars -- two inside, one outside. And the bonfire had grown:

We wandered around a little, taking in the scene, getting a pint, and then staking out a good position to watch the bonfire. Finally, just before 6:15, after a walk-through by the fire department and a hosing down of the nearby buildings, the bonfire was lit.

It started pretty slowly, and the bonfire crew moved around the edges of the pile lighting the interior wood.

And then, whoosh ... it really took.

And before long, this:

A few minutes later, the entire pile was blazing away, and the staff switched from "lighting" to "spraying down all the neighboring buildings so that they didn't catch on fire". It was pretty astounding to feel the heat, even back at the barricades -- and to watch the buildings hiss with steam when hosed down.

We stood by the fire for about half an hour, then moved along with the crowd to the rugby pitch, where the fireworks had been set up.

waiting in the dark for the fireworks
I wasn't sure what to expect -- I mean, this is a pretty small town, right? Well, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed. A solid 25 minutes of big, booming fireworks. Well done, Otley RUFC.

Fireworks over, we filed out with the happy crowd. Obviously, our next step was the pub ... but which pub??? Since we were feeling a little tired, we decided on "our" pub -- the Black Horse. We had a nightcap, a snack, and then bed. 

After another great breakfast, thanks to the staff at the Black Horse Hotel, we headed south. Not much to tell here -- all was simple and calm until we had to make our way into greater London to drop off our things and the hotel and then drop the car off at the airport. Again, we survived unscathed. 

We spent a nice evening in Richmond -- pubs, river, books, rain -- and then somehow managed to cram all of our purchases into our borrowed suitcase (yes, we bought that much food...) and ate our final order of proper fish and chips while wearing crowns from the Christmas crackers we discovered we would not be allowed to fly home.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to visit the UK again; hopefully it won't take another 6 years to get back. This was an unconventional trip for us -- I am an inveterate planner, so keeping things loose was challenging for me. And many things we thought we'd try to do, such as a Parkrun, or visiting Ironbridge, or visiting National Trust properties, were superseded by better plans. We certainly didn't expect to spend a night in Manchester or see DJ Shadow. We didn't expect to see Miles & Erica, or fall in love with Otley. Our only real plan was to walk in to wherever Sue and Tony were on their anniversary and help celebrate. And we did! 

Several times during our visit -- and, frankly, since we've been home -- we stopped and said, "I can't believe it worked!" Another successful adventure with Team Wil-Sun. 

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