Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An effigy of the pope appears through smoke reddened by a flare. In front of the pope is Guy Fawkes. Yes, it's that time of year in Lewes, again, when the streets are full of flames, fireworks are flung around and you begin to understand the lure of the occult and all its ceremony. I missed the big display but could hear the dull thuds of fireworks even in Brighton, like a battle in a distant town.

But I realised last night how much I enjoy walking in the dark, when it's cold. It's like cutting through something, it makes winter physical. On my way to the station, with Giya and Maddie, her friend, we lit sparklers and they fizzed across the level as if they were were five again. A couple were throwing fireworks around and the streets, even in Brighton, were busy.

But Lewes was utterly pagan. Great wedges of police in fluorescent waistcoats and radios cordoned off streets, stood in the middle of streets, directed people around the perimeter of the town but had no idea how to cross it. They must have come from all around. Some I asked came from Crawley.

We were herded into lines to get onto the train at Brighton station, herded between barriers as we got off at Lewes and herded through the town. The only time the crowd became scary was when people tried to force their way through in lines. Generally men, generally holding cans.

We started off at a small party to celebrate revolution but it took us more than an hour to make our way there - a walk that should have taken less than 10 minutes normally. Emilia, who was giving the party, was wearing a red scarf, white skirt and corset. She looked like she could lead an army! My concession to the revolutionary theme was to wear red, with a black beret.

It reminded me how exhilarating it is to go out at night in winter. Lights and fire can energise you when they're surrounded by darkness, when they're not there for comfort. It is a burning season and the pope looked devilish in the way unique to religious leaders who set themselves up as experts on hell and all its equivalents.