Remember, Remember

Of all the things that remind me of great times in the past, Bonfire Night is one of them. Known slightly differently in local slang (which I won’t repeat here for fear of giving away where I’m from!) it has always held a place close to my heart, right up there with Christmas.

I have really fond memories of going out with my family to go and watch a public fireworks display every 5th of November, playing with sparklers and then coming back home, freezing cold but fascinated by the amazing display of flashes, bangs and incredible timing with the music. Then we’d set off our own fireworks… which were nothing but a damp squib. There were the ones that “tried hard” – they gave off a few threatening whooshes and sparks and that’s it. Then there were the ones that just didn’t try at all, a trickle of light and they were gone. Then there were the ones that refused to start. They were then strapped to a rocket and exploded in the air. Shocking abuse of the Fireworks Rules that everyone tells you about, but it was fun at the time. I’d never do that now.

Of course, there were some better ones that would just make ludicrously loud noise. My uncle fancied himself as something of a pyrotechnic, and he would always bring to the post-public-firework-display gettogether a box of fireworks that looked a) very dodgy and b) very expensive. Consequently, he was the centre of all the excitement. These ones really did go off with the a bang. Yet, it is a humble, small rocket that brings back the best memory.

My particular favourite of all time was shortly after we’d moved into our new house in 1996. We decided to give one of the rockets a little bit more downward angle, instead of just going straight up. Then we put two rockets together to see what would happen. They were lit, and we, of course, retired to a safe distance.

Only just as we walked away the tube that holds the rockets dropped ever so slightly. It was just enough to make the difference. The first rocket went off, but when the second rocket decided to join it, it took it away in a different direction.

It landed quite neatly on the next door neighbour’s bungalow roof. Upon spotting this everyone retreated inside very quickly and the lights were switched off, as if to say, “I didn’t do it”. The rockets whistled away furiously on their roof, trying desperately to move off but couldn’t. The noise seemed excessive… and then they went pop. The resulting laughs were deep and prolonged.

Next morning we noticed there was a slight scarring on the roof tile it landed on – a stain that persists to this day.

Fireworks can obviously be very dangerous, and I’m surprised they still persist in our risk-averse culture. There is still something quite magical about this night to me, but I know it’s just because it brings back such great family-orientated memories.

Which has made the past three Bonfire Nights really miserable experiences. Here in London the noise is unbelieveable. It’s constant rumbling in the background with the frequent nearer explosions. Hull was quite loud, but this takes the biscuit. It sounds to me like some people are having a lot of fun.

But not me. Nope. I don’t have a family to share it with. I have a friend, but he’s such a misery-guts that something like this just doesn’t suit him. I would have liked to have gone to the public display by the council last night, but I’m not going on my own. Makes me feel a little depressed.

So I just stew here. Missing out on the night that, to me, marks the coming of winter. The acknowledgment that there are cold and dark days ahead. But this is a celebration of it. Putting a little cheer into those long nights. You really feel like winter has arrived when you’re out there freezing, holding a sparkler that’s rapidly burning out. And once it’s over you suddenly realise…

Only eight weeks to Christmas.

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