30 October 2012

Heaton Park: Fire at Night!

A few weeks back, Aaron, a friend of mine who does crazy things like running up steps for charity, invited me to a 'fire garden' event at Heaton Park. It was called Heaton Sparks, because DO YOU GET IT? I'd heard a lot about Heaton Park, but never been because it's a short ride away on the tram. Now that I've written that down, it doesn't feel like a valid excuse. Anyway.

So, on Friday night, I met Aaron at a little pub in town, called the Port Street Beer House. It's the friendly hipster's wet dream, tiny and filled with great beers, charming bar staff. Though it is a little expensive, I find myself there fairly often, largely because you can trust it to not be filled with dirtbags (because it is a little expensive). And because the beer is FULL OF WONDER. In a lot of ways, the Port Street is the one thing I couldn't really find in Sydney. Though people tell me that's changed since 2008.

We met up with some of Aaron's friends at another pub, and wandered into the park. It was dark out, and because we were a little way from the city, the sky was brighter than usual. Aaron insisted the North Star was to the East. I told him that bright star was probably a planet. He said it was in the Big Dipper... I got out Google Sky Maps. It was Jupiter. My god, Jupiter was bright that in that dark night sky.

The park was so pretty. Lanterns flickered and sculptures flared and warmed the surprisingly cold night. I made a mental note to visit during the day, because though I couldn't see most of the park, I could tell it was huge and lovely.

This little grotto, while less spectacular, was very charming.

There were these metal tree sculptures everywhere, with burning branches. Stunning. 

There were a lot of fire sculptures set up at shorter heights, too, so you could warm your hands. It reminded me, strangely, of the nights Craig and I spent in New Orleans, that cold December after Katrina. We'd gone to help. To gut houses and distribute food. But once it got dark, we'd go back to the gutted, cold church where all the volunteers slept on the concrete foundations, because concrete didn't hold mold, and we'd sit in the parking lot, eating our MREs and warming our hands by a metal rubbish bin, mesmerised by the fire against the darkness, and wishing everything around us was different.

There were firedancers throughout the Heaton Park site, twirling flaming hula hoops, and suddenly I remembered Kristi Deville, a friend I've long lost touch with. She used to work at Javamonkey with me, and she was a firedancer. She once did a show for my birthday. And she's the one who started calling it NIJAWEEN... a tradition that has stayed with me all this time. I hope she's well. In fact, I'm going to try to get in touch with her again. Last I saw her, she'd just had a little baby named Neva.

At the end of the Heaton Sparks event, there was a little fireworks show, which started with the three firedancers shooting flaming arrows at a structure shaped like the National Trust Symbol, setting it alight. The National Trust don't own Heaton Park, they just held this event there, and the park is owned by Manchester City Council.

The fireworks show at the end was lovely and breathtaking, the way fireworks simply always are. The thing I especially loved about this one was that the moon hung in the background, outshining the whole show.

Also, there was a tiny little marching band. It made me laugh, because I went to a normal American high school, with an enormous marching band that won awards for its marching and its banding. But I suppose the little kids thought it was pretty awesome.


Then, Aaron and I headed off to a Halloween party. I think maybe because Halloween is my birthday, I got turned off fancy dress parties early. Or maybe it's because I've seen other people put so much money, time and effort into their costumes that I decided if I couldn't win Halloween, I didn't want to dress up at all.

I will never forget the guy who came as Teen Wolf to the Brickstore Pub's party. He rode in on a car. His mate drove him up, real slow, so he could surf in, just like Michael J Fox. Come on.

I can't beat that.

Or maybe it's because, growing up in Western culture, most of the film/TV characters and cultural icons I wanted to dress as were all white. I couldn't identify. And to be fair, other people couldn't identify me either. I once dressed as Margot Tenenbaum. I had the dress and the eyeliner. I had a little wig for the haircut, because my hair was probably a mohawk at the time. I did THE WHOLE THING.

But no one got it. RACISTS.

My most successful Halloween costume EVER was when I dressed like Storm. And that was awesome. But it required an amount of pleather that I simply do not own these days.

Therefore: I am not a big fan of fancy dress parties. Usually, I go as myself, and say my costume is my birthday. I know. It's disappointing.

This year, a friend (Mark, a different Mark) invited me along to a fancy dress party, which it turned out Aaron was going to, as well! I had contemplated, earlier in the week, not going, so I wouldn't have to think of a costume.

But I've been trying to embrace this whole single woman in the city thing. Single women go to parties, right? Even if they have to wear fake blood to do so?

I decided some fake blood and fake wound stickers would be enough. It was.

And then I promptly forgot to take any pictures. I know many people who have tried to convince to dress up for Halloween over the years will want to see it. Do not panic. I will be reprising this costume on proper Halloween, so get ready to see a very fake bloodied Nija!


  1. Bjork Video; best costume ever.

    1. Your comments are getting seriously cryptic, Allenwallen!

  2. Your impromptu costume circa 2006-ish? I was Pippi Long Stocking, Craig was his dad and you rocked the ear-ed hat and a fish pillow!

  3. Oh, yeah!! I pinned that fish pillow to my back, didn't I? Oof, I'm literally useless at fancy dress!