Lewes bonfire night
There are times when you are just not in control of your body. And for me, Lewes bonfire night was one of those occasions.
I’m not talking about basic bodily functions, though I have to admit I did come close to losing those a couple of times.
It was not my first time in Lewes for the bonfire night, but it had been well over ten years since I had last been and I had forgotten the sheer rawness of it.
And sure enough, the moment we stepped off the train a banger went off and my body betrayed me. It may have been a couple of metres away, but I left me skin behind, far below.
I convulsed, turned to jelly and would have collapsed in a wobbling, shaking heap if I did not happen to have a skeleton holding me up. This was quickly followed by a wave of emotions, reacting to my body betraying my brain, justifying the brain’s loss of control and the body’s loss of dignity.
Indignation and anger flowed. Not directed at myself but at those who had set the banger off. How could they? It was dangerous, it was crowded, there were children around.
And then you recover, temporarily, long enough to realize that the children are loving every second of it, loving it more than the adults. So you relax, start to take everything in, start to enjoy yourself.
And then another one goes off. And another.
You never quite gets used to the shock. Your body still jumps every time, still on edge, it quivers whilst dealing with the huge crowds, the anarchy, the pushing and shoving, the uncontrolled emotions surrounding you.
Waves of people fill the narrow streets, pulsing, flowing as one, alive and uncaring, with no interest in whether you are alone or with friends and loved ones. Maybe this living crowd, this organism will separate you, cast you adrift, or maybe it won’t. This primeval creature that is the crowd doesn’t care.
So you go with it, you select a destination and try to keep close to those you are with. You surface for air, you get dragged along, you drown, you sink or you swim. The crowd, the emotions, the excitement, all swirling over you, through you, pushing and pulling on you, your feelings and your very being.
And amongst all this you try to focus, try to remain detached, try to take photographs. Still wanting to enjoy yourself, to take it all in, but also needing and wanting to work. More than ever pot luck is involved. Will a flare go off, just as you release the shutter, over exposing the frame? Will it work if it does? Is the shutter too slow? How much longer will I have to develop the film for, to compensate for the darkness of the cold November night?
And will I survive the next banger going off at my feet? Will my hearing ever recover? Will my body betray me (again)? Will this chaos and anarchy ever end?
Because I sure as hell don’t want it to…