News of the Queen’s 90th birthday came slowly to the village.
‘Is anyone doing a beacon?’ the former parish council chairman asked.
We’d been planning one for HRH’s official birthday in June but, to be honest, the whole beacon lighting ceremony yesterday had passed us by.
‘Just do it,’ someone said. ‘Nobody will mind.’
So it was announced yesterday morning on Facebook and word soon spread. At ten to ten last night, people began to walk from the square down the road to gather in the layby outside the school. Under the beacon pole and basket, put up on the allotments for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, three figures in high-vis busied around.
The church clock struck ten – five minutes early – and the crowd waited in eager anticipation. At the official ten o’clock, a long pole with a flaming end was inserted into the beacon basket.
We waited. And waited. Cars passed by, their drivers peering at us and wondering what this big gathering was all about.
There was applause as the fire took hold. We sang Happy Birthday Dear Queenie and then the beacon spluttered and smouldered, like a Superser heater running out of gas. This was going to be a long night. If our village had been manning one of the beacons in 1588 to warn people the Armada was coming up the English Channel , we’d be speaking Spanish today.
After a good fifteen minutes – it could have been longer, nobody minded – the beacon finally burst into flames, lighting up the night sky. We cheered heartily and then went home.