Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remember, remember the fifth of November...

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

As I sit here trying to catch my breath after walking uphill at a fair old pace for 45 minutes, I am listening to a cacophony of bangs, booms, whistles of every imaginable pitch and even inside, sulphur rends the air. Although it's a clear chill night with a breeze, there's a misty atmosphere about the place emphasised in the mercury street lights. The dog, who is deaf and almost totally blind is oblivious and sleeping soundly next to my son who is reading Armadale by Wilkie Collins in the conservatory.

I haven't done the memory test for a while and I thought tonight might be good, being in a reflective mood and when I was trying to recall memories of bonfire night, I remember an incident at school as if it were yesterday and I would be about 9 or 10 year old. It was the morning of the 5th November and we were sat on the shiny floor of the hall at Hallgate Junior School in Cottingham in East Yorkshire in morning assembly. I was sat next to a boy called Martin Davis and I remember turning to him and saying how excited I was because I loved fireworks and that I couldn't wait for the night to come. He turned to me and said of course he could wait, I shouldn't be so excited, I was being stupid. I'm not sure why I remember that so vividly but I also recall being embarrassed and slightly shocked that someone didn't share my enthusiasm.

Never-the-less, the rebuke did not dampen my enthusiasm and although the kids are grown up now and don't set off fireworks anymore, I still get a thrill out of seeing them in the sky and smelling the spent 'gunpowder' in the air, even the next morning as I walk to the car the smell hangs in the air and I smile on finding the odd spent rocket in the garden too among the damp leaves.

I lived down the road from a lad called Christopher E++++ during my school life, a bright lad, a bit of an adventurer and fun to be around. He had a coal bunker made of brick in his garden that the family didn't use for coal any longer and it made an ideal den. We collected spent fireworks from our respective gardens from the previous night, hid away in the den and scooped grains of what we thought was unspent 'gunpowder' that remained into a spent firework tube like a Roman Candle, made a fuse and tried to set it off. We never succeeded, but we tried it several years running. Sadly as a young man, Christopher died of aids, a shocking and unique event for the community in which we lived, probably one of the first cases I had ever heard of - indeed I didn't really know what aids was then.

When I first started work I remember buying a huge firework because I could afford it, which gave a warning (only read when I got it home) that you couldn't set it off with 100 metres of a building. My mother and father were with me and we decided to put it on the grass verge in the street and set it off. Looking back, we were only about 25 yards from the house. After the first big flare went off into the air and literally deafened us all with the unexpected explosive bang, it fell over. In our panic, unable to do anything for fear of serious injury in case we tried to right it, we could only watch helplessly as it set off three more huge flares which shot off down the road at ankle level like a tracer bullet and exploded some 50 yards away. Thank God no-one was driving down the road or walking past. Needless to say we slid quickly and quietly back into the house hoping nobody had noticed!

We all had the penny bangers which we let off in the back tenfoots (we weren't vandals and didn't put them through letterboxes or tie them to cats tails), and we threw Chinese jumping crackers at each others feet in the dark and jumped about trying to avoid them. Sparklers were lit, our names written in the darkness and then thrown into trees as we imagined them to be fairies dancing in the branches. Looking back - stupid things to do, but I can't remember realising it was at all dangerous - ah the innocence, or was it foolishness of youth.

I know not everyone enjoys Bonfire Night for a variety of reasons, but if you had a party or attended an organised event, I hope you had a great time.

My final thoughts tonight go to a friend whose dad passed away earlier this evening.

Chat soon


No comments:

Post a Comment