Men and women seem to have very different ideas about bonfires. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bonfire as much as anyone, especially on Bonfire Night, but I like it to be contained, to be safe, and to be a reasonable size. This is where men appear to think differently. Put a man in charge of a bonfire and you turn him into a pyromaniac. The pile of wood to burn gets larger and larger. The barbecue lighter fuel appears and gets liberally sprinkled on the pile and then matches get struck and the towering fire hazard is lit. A long stick is needed to prod and poke the fire into life, stirring up the wood and allowing oxygen into the pile to get those flames going. Higher and higher the flames climb, possibly setting alight a neighbour’s tree or sending clouds of smoke over the hedge to blind innocent passing drivers. Then small children are encouraged to throw more combustibles onto the fire with scant regard for the sparks and burning ashes raining down on them.
Everyone else gets cold or bored eventually and retreats indoors for hot soup, a cup of tea or a beer. But the man of the house is out there ensuring everything is burnt. Nothing must remain but a smouldering, glowing pile of ash. Only then is his job done, only then does he resume his normal personality, only then does he become human again. He watches, admires, swells with pride and can finally go home, safe in the knowledge that his bonfire was the biggest, the best, and the most impressive in the neighbourhood.
The following morning the smell of smoke lingers in the damp air, it is slightly foggy and the men are outside again, the clearing up has begun. The singed plants and trees are trimmed, the ashes dug into the ground and the spent fireworks removed from the lawn. Life returns to normal, men return to normal. Until next year.
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