“Didn’t you tell them?”

“No – I thought you told them.”

“Well – I sort of told them. That sounds like them now.”

The scrunch of Ford on gravel announces the arrival of our Sophisticated Essex Friends (SEF’s). SEF (male) and I shake hands in that matey-yet-slightly-awkward type way that blokes do when they haven’t seen each other for ages. SEF (female) and the LTLP kiss in that this-is-what-we-do-being-females-in-our-thirties type way. SEF (male) and the LTLP kiss in a naturally-delighted-to-see-you type way. SEF (female) and I kiss in an I’m-not-really-comfortable-with-all-this-kissing-business-so-I’ll-do-it-in-a-very-exaggeratedly-effusive-way-to-try-to-hide-the-fact type way. No tongues (although I would).

They start unloading piles of jumpers and warm coats and boots from the car. “All set for the Village bonfire night then?” asks my friend, in eager anticipation.

“What did you tell them?” hisses the LTLP.

Where we grew up, our town’s bonfire night was the best in the area. There was thousands of pounds worth of fireworks and food and recorded music by J.M. Jarre.

We go next door to Short Tony’s.

The spectacular is in full swing by the time we arrive. Short Tony, Big A and Narcoleptic Dave have set up the pyrotechnics from the box obtained from the local Morrison’s Supermarket, and are already sending rockets into the stratosphere.

We take shelter in the carport from the driving rain, so we can’t actually see them exploding above us, but the first ten feet or so of their ascent is jolly impressive.

Fireworks are to autumn what barbeques are to summer. For some reason blokes abandon their horror of entertaining a crowd of small children/cooking a meal for all the family and throw themselves into the task safe in the knowledge that it won’t lead to their masculinity being questioned. I introduce the SEFs to the local characters.

“Would you like some pie and peas?” asks Mrs Short Tony, proffering a dish resembling a forfeit on Saturday morning children’s television.

“Er… thank you,” replies SEF (male).

“Yes – er – we didn’t really think about getting any food in for later,” I admit, worried about our hospitality. “No – I’ll pass thanks, Mrs Short Tony.”

“It looks delicious,” maintains SEF (male).

By this point the fireworks have been exhausted, and we retire indoors for a game of darts in Short Tony’s front room pub. I sell everybody a raffle ticket for the Church bazaar.

It is good to introduce outsiders to our village events, to show them that we can do them at least as good as in London etc. I know that they will be talking about this for months to come.

By nine o’clock the LTLP is tired, but Narcoleptic Dave is hogging the sofa, so we retire back home for an early night.

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