Their procession looked like a swaying garland of lights, unhappy about being tethered, slung between the rages of burning trees of torches at each end. It snaked along the ridge, dancing as white specks between the guardians of wild orange flames that licked the smooth night sky into a black that almost shone.
Solemnity and excitement edged closer to the bay where a fire had been laid close to the low tide's edge, and one by one, in the light of the torches that they speared into the sand, they extinguished the lanterns and placed them on top of the bracken and kindling and twiggy sticks. And one or two lanterns ran off on the breeze like runaway lambs and the children shrieked after them and brought them back into the fold, snapping the willow limbs in eager clutching arms.
Finally, standing back, they threw the torch spears into the waiting heap, and as the roar took hold, they cheered, or ran in circles or cried a private tear, depending on their age. The flames gorged the withies and spat them out in rushing splinters of sparks and the furnace heat drew them near through the longest, darkest night until the tide turned and began to bring in the morning.
Tonight, Brighton celebrates the longest night with The burning of the clocks.
I have a short Wintery piece up on ahandfulofstones today.