Monday, 10 November 2014

Is it over yet?

It must be, no bangs yet this evening. 

When I were a lad, bonfire night was the 5th of November, and lasted precisely one night.  (All right, it might have been shifted to the nearest weekend, but still, one night.)  And it was as much about bonfires as about fireworks.  Certainly the construction of the pile of the summer garden cast-offs was a drawn-out process, carefully engineered by my father to ensure maximised combustion when the time came.  (He was like that.) 

And when the time did come, nourished by a few splashes of petrol or paraffin, and there was that crackling skyward rush of flame and sparks and the fire grew from inside so that the edges of the pile became a black lattice against the fierce yellow interior, like streaks across the sun, and then the bonfire gently matured into a vermilion face-scorching glow into which you could thrust potatoes until they turned black on the outside and molten under the skins, and slap lashings of salted butter on them and deliberately burn your tongue eating them – well, who needed Standards or Brocks?

Of course, we did have fireworks too.  Wobbly rockets in milk bottles (which sometimes went haywire and spun off sideways); crackerjacks (which I hated because I was convinced they were chasing me); Catherine wheels (are they still called that?  I hope not, given the gruesome derivation); Air Bombs (unbelievably, the deputy scoutmaster once organised a firework battle, with these as handheld weapons) …  

I didn’t really like it.  The next days were much better.  My father would split open spent Roman candles, tip out the powder onto the drive and ignite it with a miniature display of sparks and colours that was better than the real thing.  My friend Mike and I once used leftover bangers to try and blow up a rotting tree stump in his garden – I think we may even have partially succeeded.   And I even used to enjoy collecting the rocket sticks.

I wrote here - gosh, five years ago! – about my best ever firework display.  I can’t recommend this approach though.



  1. Firework night seems to have extended to about 10 days, which makes it difficult for us dog owners.
    When we were kids it was all over in one official night (normally frosty not balmy) but on further thoughts I do seem to remember being able to buy packs of penny bangers about a month before 5th and having the time of my life detonating them in all manner of conditions. Why can't 10 year olds buy explosives any more?

  2. Before we moved house when I was 15, we used to share bonfire nights with our neighbours across the road, the Hayes family. I hated it when it was their turn to host the party as their son used to put fire crackers in my coat pockets - a miracle there were no injuries!