There’s something about the British “stiff upper lip” that always makes me smile.
I’m not the kind of person who barks about “making Britain great again” or marches along the high street with banners and flags, but there are times when I have to look fondly at the way we do things in this country and feel, well, sort of proud really.
The last time I had this feeling was two weekends ago, whilst standing in a wet carpark in North London, watching a firework display and holding an umbrella over my head as the rain poured down. And the best thing about this stalwart display of “Britishness”? I wasn’t alone. I was in a crowd of a hundred or so others.
Because a little bit of rain isn’t a problem for us Brits. Umbrellas, wellies and waterproofs at the ready and we’re prepared for anything. Including wringing out our soggy pulled pork sandwiches and Norwegian waffles. But more on those in a minute.
“Being prepared” is a good lead-in to the reason why I was watching fireworks in the rain at all, actually. Many of you will remember Annie from my Girls With Altitude post back in July. With her lovely wild curly hair and enviable map-reading skills she succeeded in not getting the five of us completely lost in the Welsh hills during a weekend of adventures in the Elan Valley.
In her spare time, Annie also volunteers a huge amount of time to the Scouting Association, and along with master of ceremonies Marlon, a whole host of other volunteer leaders and of course, the explorer scouts themselves, they plan an annual fundraising celebration that easily rivals anything else in the nearby area.
Named Wildfire, Wild Wolf Explorer Scout Unit’s Bonfire Night took place at Scout Park this year, just a hop, skip and a jump from Bounds Green station on the Piccadilly line.
The rain was coming down with little or no let-up when I arrived, and despite my outdoorsy tendencies, I really hadn’t dressed for the occasion either. As I trudged my way towards the park with water sloshing around in my boots, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be the only one mad enough to brave this gloomy November weather.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Even though I’d arrived early, the car park was already buzzing with activity. I could see an information tent complete with DJ equipment, two huge food stalls that were wafting some rather delicious aromas into the small crowd and in the distance, signs pointing towards a campfire and marshmallow roasting opportunities. And that was just the start!
I visited each and every stall lining the carpark and the adjacent field, and do you know what I saw? Despite the rain and the cold, a never-ending parade of smiling faces beaming at me from behind every trestle table that was sinking in the mud.
Young people with a real sense of ownership for whatever they were doing, whether it was roasting chestnuts, selling doughnuts or hawking cupcakes by the light of their head torches because the rain had blown a fuse in the outdoor lights.
It was inspiring to see such pride and determination in the face of undeniably rotten bad luck. As the saying goes, “the show must go on”, and indeed it did.
Once I’d spent my time ooh-ing and aah-ing at what was on offer, I slipped and slid my way towards the fire pit, still marvelling at the sheer amount of people who’d appeared out of nowhere to support this community event. Warming themselves next to the bonfire’s roaring flames were folks of all ages and backgrounds, a real cosmopolitan mix, and each and every one with a smile on their faces too.
Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps it was the cheerful nature pervading the park grounds, who knows. But what I can tell you is that nothing could dampen the Wildfire spirit, and right up until the big fireworks launch at 7:30pm, people were still flooding into the gates.
Everyone wanted to be a part of it.
And when the first rockets finally hit the sky, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. I was never a member of the Scouts, nor do I have much in the way of involvement now. I’m not a north Londoner and hadn’t met most of young people and the whole host of volunteers helping them on this dreary Saturday evening in November.
But standing amongst them, I suddenly felt a sense of community so warming, it thawed me even more effectively than the cup of hot apple juice I had clasped between my hands.
Nice work WWESU, I’ll be booking my ticket for next year.
If your child is interested in getting involved with WWESU, you can contact Marlon, Annie or one of the other leaders via their website for more information. The group is for 14-18 year olds and they meet once a week on a Wednesday. WWESU also have an enviably busy social events calendar: hikes, camping trips away, outdoor sports activities and fundraisers to name but a few. The explorers also have a lively Twitter, Facebook and YouTube presence!