Our regular Zoom workshop replaces the physical meeting at Touchstones and takes place on the first Thursday of the month between 2-4. This month it fell on November 5th so we had to write about Guy Fawkes’ Night, Bonfire Night, call it what you will. What I loved about facilitating this session was the marvellous memories we all brought back, I’m sure there’s a book to be had from this!
Maureen sent in her poem for our enjoyment.
For weeks before the 5th November, which is Bonfire Night, gangs of us kids would scour the hills and dales for firewood. This consisted of old trees, bushes, planks – in fact anything that would burn. Our house had a cellar as did some of the other houses so we used to persuade mum to let us keep our stash down there. Method in our madness as other rival gangs were on the lookout to raid our stock of wood. We were lucky as dad’s cousin Rose was the caretaker of our local church which doubled as school during the week. She used to let us keep our wood which was too big to go down our cellar in the church boiler room.
We used to make a guy – an effigy of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament hundreds of years ago. We made ours out of paper stuffed with straw. He (it was always a “he”) was dressed in some old clothes and he proudly wore an old hat.
My brother and I used to dress our cousin in old clothes, cram him into a pushchair and parade him around as well as the gang’s guy until mum rescued him.
The mums made all sorts of goodies – potato pie, parkin, black peas, baked potatoes and anything else which they fancied but the favourite was always treacle toffee. In fact I still make treacle toffee and black peas on Bonfire Night but I buy the parkin after my daughter broke one of her teeth on some I once made.
Come the day – kids and dads, though usually my dad and his brother – set about building the bonfire with us kids dragging wood from all our hiding places. We still had to keep watch though over the wood as gangs of kids would still try to steal our wood, as we would try to steal theirs.
Fireworks such as jumping jacks, catherine wheels, chinese crackers, roman candles, rockets, sparklers and bangers were set aside from the bonfire. Dads usually set off these with mums supervising the tots who were allowed to hold sparklers.
Later on food would be dished up. Potatoes were put directly into the fire to bake. They emerged from the flames by way of poking them with sticks. Black as charcoal on the outside and raw in the middle but we valiantly ate them until the proper food arrived.
Later on cousin Rose would open up the school and pews would be brought out and placed at a safe distance from the dying fire. Mums and dads would sit on them usually with a drink and us kids ran wild round the common.
Bedtime came at last. We stank to high heaven of wood smoke and were filthy.
The last job for my mum, which was an embarrassment to me and my brother, was to dowse the fire with buckets of water to make sure it was out!!!!!
© Maureen Harrison TCWG 5/11/20