When you said ‘let’s burn the bonfire’ we’d built for Guy Fawkes night even though the small ones were ill; not ours of course, who were grown and gone but Stan and Wilf, our ‘secular’ children, I have to admit, I was none too pleased. My counter suggestion to go to the pub, celebrate half-term, your week’s respite, your cooling off, was met with the pursed lips, perfected over the years and employed to ward off such ideas.
So, out you went as I still struggled into my boots, papers underarm, matches held astrike. By the time I arrived it was already ablaze and you were shifting branches from one pile to the next to prevent the incineration of hedgehogs, your orange face filled with fire.
We spent an hour or so feeding the flames on a still night as a massive sky absorbed the smoke of a million atoms heading towards the stars. And I imagined Cranmer, who had, only that afternoon, looked down on us from his pious Oxford perch, feeling first the warming of his toes before the flames got a grip, soon consuming in that hot revenge the cries he must have made. I tried to imagine, with all the lifting, lugging and lurching, accidently throwing myself into the fire as some sort of sacrifice the god I’ve never known wished to extract, for me feeling curmudgeonly at not going to the pub.