My First Bonfire

Whilst I was clearing up all the airborne rubbish after the three Guy Fawkes nights (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday the 5th), I reflected that in these days of affluence, ‘Bonfire Night‘ has more to do with noisy and colourful (and very expensive) fireworks than bonfires.

When I was a child, all the local children spent weeks collecting twigs and branches to build a huge bonfire in the middle of a field. We also had to guard it against rival gangs who might try to take some of our hard earned pile.

Everybody contributed several fireworks which were placed in a safe lidded box in the care of the adult in charge.

After banging old buckets to frighten out any animals which had thought the woodpile a heaven sent refuge for the winter, the ‘Guy’ was hoisted into place at the top, and the fire was lit.

Fireworks were set off, sparklers whizzed around making dazzling patterns.

All too soon the fire died down, but then came the best time of all. We kids each had a spud to put into the embers, and after a while they were fished out with sticks and devoured hungrily. Nothing before or since has ever tasted so awful or so good at the same time!

However, one of my most vivid memories of childhood was the very first time I ever saw a bonfire.

It was wartime and we had been subjected to a very strict ‘Blackout‘ for nearly all of my life.

One night when I was nearly six, I remember my mother and a man coming into the bedroom to waken me. I was wrapped in a blanket and carried downstairs and out into the night air.

My mother carried my baby brother and the man carried me. We all hurried along a couple of streets, around a corner…. and…. there….was….the….brightest….. light…. I had ever seen!

The war was OVER!

A huge bonfire had been quickly built on the site of a house which had previously been hit by bombs during The Blitz. I was aware of silhouetted people dancing around the fire. Chairs and tables were added to the pyre, anything to keep it blazing.

Then there was a big cheer and an effigy of Adolf Hitler was thrown onto the fire. I was horrified as I thought a real person had been burned alive!

The ‘stranger’ who carried me that night was, in fact my father who had just been given compassionate leave to come home to see his newborn son… just days after being awarded the D.F.C.

I suppose it is no surprise that no bonfire has ever lived up to my first one?

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4 thoughts on “My First Bonfire

  1. Tom Fearon

    Hi Lesley,
    I find your memorys of your early years fascinating as it so closely mirrors my own. My earliest memorys are also are of being picked up half asleep in a blacked out house and being taken this time to an air raid shelter as there had probably been a siren gone off. When you think that we would only have been 2-3 years of age at the time it must have been seared in our memorys. By the way did you get my email. Tom

    Reply
  2. Lesley

    Yes. Tom, I too remember being carried into my Pop’s Anderson shelter, cunningly disguised as a garden.

    I thought we were playing ‘House’ as they told me it was a big “Dolls’ House”. Pop used to sing: “are you happy in your work?” and we wound reply: “Sure we are!”. And there were a lot of barrels rolled out and Lily Marlenes sung as well.

    Did you have a Micky Mouse gas mask? I found a pic of one just like mine yesterday. I think it was on the link to childhood in the war.

    Even after I started school, we used to have regular ‘air raid exercises’, when we all trailed out into the schoolyard and sat on the benches all around the huge shed of an air raid shelter in the school grounds. I think we only had candle light in there too so it was a bit scary.

    yes… hdd your Email, thought I had replied, but, being retired, I am, of course, busier than I ever was when I had a career!

    Reply
  3. Tom Fearon

    Hi Dont worry about the reply if you are busy, I was not sure if I had the right email address as I have two on file. I know what you mean about finding the time. I am taking advantage of the inclement weather to catch up on all my mail because tomorrow the sun will shine and there are other things to do!!!.

    Reply

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