It had rained all day, with the low cloud and wind typical of late October. Things were not looking good for fireworks in the evening, but as we gathered the rain stopped, the gloom lifted and the wind dropped.
We pulled on our wellingtons, angled out of the house and up the lane, skirting deep puddles and piles of horse manure before following the path through the wood and along the edges of a couple of fields, until we reached the gates onto the road. Just beyond the gate, someone was sitting in a large van, and more people were in a small car with the engine running, but the hill side meant we could look over them easily by taking a few steps backwards. Seeing the display through some low branches did not diminish it.
It was obvious where the fireworks would be. We could see a small fairground and a crowd down in the valley, next to the big house. Right on time, we heard a deep thud and a moment later, the sky lit up with sparks and colour. Then, as the breeze shifted, we could hear a thin, distant version of the soundtrack and the choreography of light and colour began.
After a few minutes we heard hooves and two donkeys ran past, up the middle of the road, with stiff legs moving very fast to take them away from the noise. On the horizon, the red lights of Southampton dock cranes were every bit as intense as the much closer fireworks. Under foot, leaves squished inthe mud.
When the finale came, the sky above Beaulieu was full, without gaps, of white light.
I almost prefer watching fireworks from a distance. It is less intense, and you can see everything at once. There are fewer thrills — basic survival instincts are triggered by loud noises and rapid movement nearby — but the intensity of colour and shape is heightened by surrounding darkness. I love being out in the Forest at night, as if I am keeping a secret, and the contrast between the darkness and quiet where we stood and the intense noise and excitement we were watching, was lovely.
A quick walk back across the field, through the woods and along the lane, revealed lots of villagers who’d found their own places to watch too. It would have been perfect, and commonplace, to hear owls in the wood but after wind, rain and fireworks, they were wisely keeping quiet.