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