It is November 5th. As a small child, great anticipation and novelty in going out in the dark at night, when normally I'd be going to bed. My dark green wellies on, red coat, woolen gloves and hat. These childhood November's were cold. The sort of cold that seeps into your bones. It is the sort of cold that can only exist in the past ; when we cast our gaze back and imagine extremes in weather that no longer exist, and an intensity of dark that cannot be experienced in adulthood. Tonight is bonfire night, and not only do I get to venture out into blackness, but I get to venture out into Aislaby blackness.
This is altogether different.
The cold, dark sky shines intensely with a multitude of stars that cannot be seen in town. The stark, velvet blanket of the sky, punctured with countless twinkling points of light. Walking along the grass verge, you may stumble, blinded by the fierce night of the countryside, unable to find your way by the slice of milky crescent.
A still pool of excitement trembles in the smokey air. Driving down the lane, the headlights pick out the old stone sign that signals your arrival - AISLABY. Reader, you are now on the cusp of a different world. A foreign country, with a currency of childhood nostalgia.
The black sky, alight with stars, is already heady with the scent of smoke, as chimneys slowly spill their stream of coal vapours and the scent of burning logs into the air.
Nanny comes out of her house on Main Road, cheeks still glowing from standing on the hearth. She is wrapped up tight. Unusually, she may have traded her tweed skirt for trousers, and is bundled up in wellies and hand knitted sweater under her cardigan. She wears old Red gloves that I'm sure smell of the wet snow of Narnia.
She takes my hand. Gloved fingers in gloved fingers, leading me through the black night down to Aislaby quarry. You can't see your own footsteps in front of you, utterly reliant on your hand holder for support.
Soon, a clearing in the trees. A muddy slope to step down. Steps turn into slides, until we're deposited at the bottom. A rush of heat pours onto our cold faces.
A small gathering of villagers crowded round what seemed to my small stature to be a giant tower of fire. Old men and women, a few families, and grandchildren like me, who had come from town. The heat burning your face from feet away, the first stop would be at a little stall selling baked potatoes and toffee apples. I would always ask for a toffee apple, the delicious crack of the red sugar against my teeth, sinking into the soft apple underneath. Sticky teeth and cold cheeks, we'd watch the fire blaze up the side of the quarry.
Excited, nanny would hand me a sparkler. Childlike excitement across her face, rosy cheeks glowing, she would watch, grinning as I wrote my name in the chill air. Unable to resist, she would take a sparkler, and write her own name. Nanny. Her best identity.
Standing by the bonfire, our boots would sink and slip into the boggy sod, the smell of wet earth, mud, burning wood, senses alive with autumn. This thrilling night of sugary treats and blazing fires in the Aislaby darkness, the gaudy fireworks falling through the starry sky above our upturned faces.