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Fireworks

Plumes of flame blossomed along the hills, all down the M6 and M1, en route back south to London. Bonfires illuminated countryside houses, smoke cascading down from hilltops. Falling fire glowed afar, in miniature, bedecking distance in lurid reds and whites. Closer to the motorway, petals of blue and pale scattered down from their explosive centers, explosion after explosion echoing through the fog-dampened evening. The whole country celebrated destructively while distance fell behind us, and the evening wore on.

For the second time in as many years, I was in a car driving cross-country on a day illuminated by fireworks. It's a magical way to travel, the land giving forth in festivity and fire, transient blooms, explosive beauty. At mundane roadside stops, a father hoists his daughter on his shoulders, the better to see the the fire beyond near-distant trees. Crowds stare upward, marvelling, necks aching. Millions of pounds are burned in the air, as a year's wooden refuse is made good in bonfires on the ground. A dry Christmas tree revives in a moment's glory, each needle aglow with fervent, sparking heat which, for a moment, rolls back the evening's bite.

We had our own fire, with C'.s family, as well as everyone else's, a day early, Bonfire Day observed in the convenience of a Saturday. A tasty meat-and-potato pie with pickled beetroot, a rather spicy chili, sausages, a light, dark gingerbread, parkin - but I wanted nothing more than a mug of mulled cider to warm my hands around. I miss North American (non-alcoholic) cider, its dense smooth sweetness balanced with tart, the taste of fall and warmth and apples.

Fall has settled in here with tendrils of mist and yellowing trees, a breath of cold, and warming layers. Fire burns to keep us warm, to bring back light, in memory of a destruction which never happened, the country's yearly excuse for extravagant fireworks.