Author: Rosie Oliver
Lizzie had left the life of pressurised techno-work behind and retired to a small cottage in the wilds of her beloved Northumberland. Peace at last, except for renovating the cottage top to bottom. She could take her time, that precious commodity that had been missing so long from her life. The autumnal fall of leaves needed brushing up and would make good leaf mulch this year according to her neighbour. So she was out in her front garden when a man in his fifties, judging by the state of his facial skin, greying hair and stiffness in his gait, came past and stopped.
“You’re t’new ’un here?” he asks.
Northerners, always straight to the point, but they would be the first to help anyone in trouble. “Yes.” She smiles. “You’d be?”
“Charlie Rogers. Live in t’house at top of t’road with a field on t’back.” His green eyes took on a sparkle. “You’ll be coming to my fireworks display on bonfire night then.”
“It’s very kind—”
“Whole village comes.” His face was one of eager anticipation.
She could not disappoint him. “What time?”
“T’usual. Fireworks start at eight.” Off he beetled.
That night in the field Lizzie stood among the villagers at one end of Charlie’s field. With no moon to be seen, the sky twinkled with pinpricks of its own unreachable fireworks. At eight, everyone’s torches switched off. Lizzie followed their example.
From the other end of the field, vibrant green flares rose from the ground like the first shoots of spring, developing pale blue, lilac and purple spurts of flowers, stocks, foxgloves and delphiniums. Others grew spiky yellow and red globular sets of sprays at the top, chrysanthemums. Behind them grew three silver birch trunks, branches, green leaves that turned yellow and floated to the ground to douse the flowers. The tree trunks sank into the gloom.
Rockets took centre stage. Trails of sparks wiggled their way upwards to burst into falling glitter fountains. Over the next twenty minutes, bangs, whizzes and squeals sounded in unison to Handel’s Fireworks music until the last spangle died away into a silence of expectancy.
Flickering orange, yellow and red flares sprang from a magical fire. Sparks flew off the flames in all directions. A large bird rose into the dark sky, wings flapping. Its iridescent golden plumage contrasted sharply with its ice blue eyes and silver beak. At a great height, it burst with a loud bang throwing multi-hued streamers in all directions. They faded, leaving a glowing message in the now shimmering night air: ‘THE END’.
The audience applauded wildly. Lizzie was too stunned to join in.
After the crowd had left, she approached Charlie who was clearing the field of the display stands.
“Enjoyed it?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, thank you. I have one question.”
“How did you do the tree trunks?”
He stops pushing the framework from which some fireworks had been launched. “You’re a techno. Only ‘em could pick that out as t’display’s most difficult part.”
Lizzie laughed. “You’ve got me there.”
“What’s the answer?” She asked.
“T’secret ingredient in everything made good is love.”
“True, but there’s more to it than that.”
“Love leads to patient practice. I’ve spent forty years practising getting things just right.”
“Maybe longer. No taking shortcuts. No using machines. All done by hand.”
“You’re more accurate than machines?”
Charlie shook his head. “Practice lets me make more accurate judgements about what’s needed. None of your ‘that’ll do’ stuff.”
Lizzie made the connection with her old work. It was what had been missing, the time to perfect things. Money-making had been the firm’s goal. In a way coming here, finding a kindred spirit was like finally finding her home.