November 2020

Remember, remember the fifth of November ……. well, we always do, and nowadays many of us go to organised bonfires and firework displays, but it’s not like it was in the ‘old days’ is it!

Bonfire night in the 1950s and 1960s was much more of a ‘hands-on’ celebration: family and neighbourhood events were the order of the day, and the last weeks of October were the time for gathering wood and cardboard for the fire, making a good Guy Fawkes to put on the top of the bonfire, after he’d been taken around the streets in a wheelbarrow or go-kart to collect ‘a penny for the Guy’ of course!

There was great excitement in late October when fireworks were first seen in the shops – a selection box of Standard Fireworks was good but it was always a highlight to peruse the trays of individual items – rockets and Catherine Wheels were a must, but there had to be a few bangers of course, and don’t forget the fountains, Roman Candles and packets of sparklers too!

As the night finally arrived everyone hoped the weather would stay fine and all was set for an exciting evening – the fire was built, rockets set up in milk bottles and Catherine Wheels nailed to posts – dads were usually in charge of these!  Meanwhile mum had prepared a feast – in some households this would include ginger parkin and toffee apples, for others potatoes and sausages to bake in the fire, or perhaps mugs of hot soup to thaw us out as the night always seemed to be clear and frosty.  Children listened expectantly to hear the first fireworks go off and rushed outside to have a first look to see if any early fires had been lit. For the daring this was the time to set off bangers and Jumping Jacks and for boys to frighten unsuspecting girls!

As Guy Fawkes Night proper got underway the dark sky was full of colours, sounds and smells – small children waved sparklers whilst the older ones shrieked at the excitement of the sound of explosions with the air filled with ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahhs’.  

As the fire died down, everyone made their way back home taking with them a distinct smell of woodsmoke mingling with a whiff of gunpowder.

Do you remember the morning after? Ashes from the bonfire would still be smouldering and bleary-eyed children collected the remains of rockets and other fireworks as they made their way to school. Here comparisons would be made as to who had the biggest bonfire, the loudest banger, the highest rocket and who had set the hedge on fire!  Then to cap it all you had to write a poem about it!!

We all have our personal memories of Bonfire Night and it was certainly an occasion to remember. We look forward to a time once again when we can share such recollections when we meet up with our Memory Cafe friends.