Sunday 23 June 2013

There is only one day in the year.........

My UK friends and readers may find this as hard to believe as we did when we first arrived here, but there is only one day in the year when you are allowed to have a bonfire to burn your garden waste, hedge clippings and so on. Bonfires and the burning of rubbish are illegal without a special licence which you'd have to apply for and get signed off by County Council officials, so tends to get used only rarely by big landscaping operations and farmers. This is no doubt for very good reasons to do with not starting bush-fires in the local forests and on the bogs, plus pollution. We are told that in the early days of this ban there was actually a spotter helicopter sent up to look for tell tale smoke columns.

I have to say that before we knew this, and while we were ripping all the old, wood-worm riddled timbers out of the house, we might have done a few bonfires. I also think it is one of those laws, of which there seem to be quite a few in Ireland, where nobody actually enforces them and there have never been any arrests or prosecutions. None the less we are wary of being the first test case so, now that we know, we are not doing any illegal burns.

There is one day of the year when you are allowed to light bonfires - Bonfire Night which here is obviously nothing to do with burning Catholics on November 5th! It is celebrated on June 23rd (this year, anyway) and is geared to the Summer Solstice and/or St John's Eve. We suspect it is another of these 'Hi-Jacked' ones which was being celebrated by the pre-Christian Irish and was then absorbed and 'civilised' by the early Christians into being all about St John.

It ends up meaning that even if the weather is vile and too windy for sensible fires, everyone ignores all the beautiful, windless days of early June and saves all their burn-able rubbish for the 23rd. We did this - for all those still days of May and June, the hedge cuttings in our East Field languished on the grass and because the horses would not risk prickling their lips near cut bramble, the grass and docks grew long and lush through them, so that when we came to want them today it was the devil an' all job to wrench them out of the thigh-high grass. It was also a bit windy so that in the UK I'd have been leaving the burn for a safer day, but we decided that down in the 'well' of the field between the tall trees of our 'Secret Garden' and the eastern boundary, we'd be safe enough. So it proved. We have now burned all the cuttings and managed not to start any forest fires.

Happy Bonfire Night, Irish style!

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