Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Beacon in the Night

The Beacon at Curley Hill was advertised to be lit at around 10.30pm, on top of one of Surrey's highest hills, which happens to be only a short drive away. So I decide to go and see the Big Event. I start to climb the wooded hillside and discover very quickly there are no markers, marshals or lighting to guide me. It gets very dark, very fast, in the woods. So dark that I knew if I carried on, I'd never find my way and could end up lost for hours, probably with a broken foot after tripping over a tree root.

So I turn back, but soon meet a group of fellow adventurers winding there way to the top and, unlike me, they have torches. Despite this, I still manage to scare the one women of the group half to death as I loom out of the darkness and say hello.

Nevertheless, they let me tag along and we all eventually reach the top where there are about a hundred people in the darkness around what appears to be the unlit Beacon Bonfire. I can't get near it for the throng, so I stand alone to one side away from the crowd and watch. I can just see above the heads of the crowd the 'bonfire' and a pole with what appears to be an ashtray sitting at the top, underneath which is stuck a tatty plastic flag. It gets darker.

A large Labrador  dog adopts me, sitting close to my leg. I tickle its ear as its owner growls for it to come to heel. It ignores him and he eventually gives up in exasperation. the dog smiles up at me. A little later a couple turn to me and say, "That's a very well behaved dog, you have there!"

In my best silly French accent, I shrug and reply, "It is not my dog..."

As I stood there alone, I realised we all need that little unexpected warmth from a friend in the darkness. A simple touch or a message. I can see why a dog is such a wonderful companion, giving unqualified love and devotion. Some say dogs have this sixth sense for people and I don't know about that, but I missed that dog when it wandered back to its owner. Maybe I should really get a dog instead of a blog.

At the anointed time, a small flame bursts into life and I raise my camera to catch the growing flames of this once in a generation Beacon as it get going. Only it doesn't. Get going I mean. In a few minutes, the crowds begin to disperse, a few muttering darkly as they pass me, "Is that it?"

It was indeed 'it'.

The Great Iron Brazier I'd expected, turned out to be nothing more than an ashtray atop a piece of bamboo lit by gas. Pathetic doesn't even come close. I wondered why they'd bothered at all. So I stumbled down the treacherous blackness of the hill following a small group of people, hoping they were going somewhere I knew. It took me nearly an hour to find where I'd parked my car...

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