Daily Archives: November 6, 2006

Bonfires past

A special part of Bonfire night for me know is the thought of the memories it is making for my sons.
I have such strong memories of Bonfire night as a child.
Our street was a close – a circular street round a patch of green grass in the centre – and it was full of characters. One house was, we were convinced, occupied by a witch. She was a curmudgeonly old lady with a pathalogical hatred of children – one who would ring the police if we dared to play on the grass and who was always shaking her fist at us. Mind you, when I remember what we got up to, I’m not all that surprised with the benefit of hindsight.
The old lady had a grown-up son who also had no time for children. Well, not for 364 days of the year. But as Bonfire night approached, our excitement began to rise as in their garden appeared a mountainous pile of wood and, attached to their shed, the most interesting-looking contraptions which had us mystified as we stood on one-another’s shoulders to peep over their garden fence. The night of night arrived and all the children of the street, together with their parents, went to the witch’s house, carrying biscuit-tins full of fireworks to contribute to the display. The adult women sat in the house with the old lady, drinking coffee and eating cakes, the adult men shared the lighting of the fireworks, and the children laughed and played and ooohed and aahhed as firework after firework was let off. Our homemade guys were devoured by the massive fire – something which always gave the night a bittersweet feeling – while jacket potatoes roasted merrily among the embers. And then came the piece de resistance – the homemade fireworks which the witch’s son had prepared into a magnificent display. It was pure magic.
From there we departed, frozen fingered, to my friend’s house. His mother never joined us on Bonfire night… instead she stayed at home and prepared hot chocolate, butter for the jacket potatoes (ooh, they tasted horrible, but you just had to eat them because it was part of the whole experience, toffee apples and.. my absolute favourite… Piggy in a Blanket (sausages rolled up in a slice of white bread.. mmmmmmmm).
I can see it all now – one of my strongest and favourite childhood memories.
I wonder what treasures my boys are amassing.. (especially my eldest with whom we’ve had to work long and hard to establish the idea of holding any event in your memory at all).


Last night – firework fun.

I love it when it’s cold and frosty on bonfire night, and even a bit of fog in the air adds to the excitement.
Wrapped up like the Michelin man in hundreds of layers of coats and socks and jumpers and hats, out in the dark way beyond bedtime, indulging on once-a-year things like toffee apples – or we would have been if the shop hadn’t run out just before we got there.

We go to the display at Yarmouth. It’s fantastic – what an atmosphere. It involves the whole town and people from far and wide flock there, making for a massive crowd. Everyone gathers in the village square for hot soup, chips, street entertainment, bands, and the judging of the Best Dressed Guy competition. Then – a time of high stress for the safety-conscious – the lighting of the torches. I was torn between being enraptured by the excitement of the event and terrified of the possible consequences. As I commented to M, it seemed ironic that the traditional bonfire had been replaced by a lighting of a beacon due to health and safety considerations, but that prior to that short children had been armed with lethal weapons in the form of a stick with a tin can on the end in which was frantically burning a firelighter and said small people were carrying these in the haphazard way that children do in the midst of a throng of thousands of people. But I have got to say, there was a frisson of excitement along with the disapproval as we all processed through the village to the rhythm of the fantastic samba band.

Samba band

When we reached the beacon, this band actually surrounded the Smudgelets and M and me as they played for the lighting of the fire. It was incredible – very hard to stand still when this rhythmic drum and whistle music was played, and our hearts and stomachs beat in time with the deepest of the drums. The flames rose high in the metal basket and again at the foot where the guys met their fiery end.

And then the fireworks.


Bang - fizzle fizzle

Each year they are more and more beautiful. I love fireworks. My favourites flew up like a rocket, exploded like a rocket, and then each of the showering sparks seemed to ignite of its own accord and fizzle into a million tiny stars. The sea reflected their beauty and Tiddles pointed out that the residual smoke traced a pattern like cobwebs across the sky, all radiating out from a central point – to him just as beautiful as the sparks themselves. Smudgelet, who is fairly sensitive to noise (strange, considering he creates so much of it himself and is currently learning the trumpet!), enjoyed the fact that he is finally getting able to tolerate the big bangs and I think that his hands-over-ears stance was as much in fun as necessity. No cowering this year. We were all enraptured by the display.


Did I mention how much I love fireworks?

Shopping with my eyes closed

Today was an interesting experience.

One of our local garden centres is renowned for its wonderful Christmas displays and raises a lot of money for the local hospice as a result. Every Advent we make a special visit to see them and to have a meal in the lovely cafe there – it is our favourite garden centre anyway and we spend a lot of time there during the year, even though you can’t tell by looking at my garden. Or maybe you can tell – we spend a lot of time there, but not a lot of money!

Anyway, I was appalled, yes appalled, to discover them beginning work on their Christmas display right at the beginning of October and, as every year, I resolved to avoid going there until I felt ready to become Christmassy – i.e at the beginning of Advent. Even mention of Christmas in our household is banned until Advent, with one present less in the stocking on Christmas morning for every mention of it by small people who should know better.

Today, however, my friend M wanted to go there after swimming as they had a special offer that the first 1000 people to hand in a particular voucher from the local press would be given a rather nice candle plate and she wanted one for church. As swimming is always followed by coffee and cakes (well, we have to replenish those lost calories somehow or we’d waste away) and time was limited, this entailed going to the cafe at the garden centre too.

I was forced to negotiate the entire complex with my eyes closed.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Join the Oxford Street Christmas Lights Campaign at the Cartoon Blog.