5 November 2006


Oh how I loved Bonfire Night when I was a kid. It was one of the highlights of the year. For transatlantic readers let me explain that I'm talking about Guy Fawkes Night - an old English tradition which commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1601 when Catholic plotters failed in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament along with the new Protestant King - James I. Every November 5th we build bonfires and set off fireworks and we eat parkin cake and toffee apples. Usually there's a "guy" on the bonfire - a dummy man made from old clothes etc - he's meant to represent one of the Catholic plotters - Guido Fawkes.
Even from the age of six or seven I would visit the village shop with my pocket money and come home with extra fireworks to add to my proud collection - penny bangers, roman candles, "Vesuvius" volcanoes, "Jack in A Boxes", jumping jacks, Catherine Wheels and of course, the highlight of any Bonfire night - sky rockets. Nowadays only adults may purchase fireworks from licensed retailers and there's even talk of banning them completely.


Near the "Netto" grocery store I visit most Saturdays, I spotted the Wooseats Discount Fireworks Company. I marched in to be greeted with, "Can I help you sir?". "Yes. I want to buy the biggest rocket you've got left!". He produced an enormous beast of a firework. The stick was a metre long and the main body of the Chinese "Starbuster" rocket was a series of connecting tubes no doubt stuffed full with gunpowder. I staggered out of the shop minus twenty quid (I later told Shirley it was twelve - tee hee!)
Then tonight came. We'd finished our Sunday dinner so I went up our garden where I'd already prepared the launch site - a drainpipe rammed two feet into the soil. I lit the long blue fuse and scarpered back to the house in time to see this mother of a rocket surge straight upwards at a million miles an hour, dwarfing all the other neighbourhood rockets that were only vaguely illuminating the night sky. Then my SOB burst like a huge orange chrysanthemum just below the cloud cover briefly bringing the illusion of daylight back and then it rained purple and silver. I watched while the spent but still white hot rocket plunged back to Earth, praying it wouldn't land on my head. It didn't. But a few feet away on the other side of our garden hedge I heard it embed itself with an almighty thump in next door's lawn. Twenty quid well spent and I'm glad I again marked the night even though there was no bonfire party this year....
"Please do remember, the fifth of November.
Light up the sky with Standard fireworks!"


  1. Anonymous9:36 pm

    We have one gigantic firework left from The Fourth of July holiday. It is called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" it has 90 rounds and is huge. We're setting it off tonight, just because...

    Glad to hear you're still enjoying yourself.

  2. Are you familiar with Witch Week, by Diana Wynne Jones? It's set in an alternative universe where Guy Fawkes succeeded in his plot to blow up Parliament, and the ramifications of that act upon present-day (alternative) England.

  3. I wondered why the southern horizon lit up last night YP. i just thought it was a nuclear attack on sheffield and went back to my tea but if I'd have known it was a free fireworks display...

  4. Boys and their toys, eh? ;)

  5. Damn. Yall get cool fireworks, there. Here (at least in my state), you're lucky to find sparklers, firecrackers and cherry bombs.

    Bonfires rock! I don't think one is ever to old to enjoy a good bonfire. I can just imagine being an octogenarian pyro.

    Oh, if I ever do make to Jolly Ol' England, I'm COUNTING ON you and Shirley to meet me at a nice pub, somewhere outside the big city, to show me the more mellow parts. I'll buy the first round.

  6. I have a confession to make. A couple of weeks ago, Bede and I stopped by The Elephant and Castle, and I ordered the (Yorkshire) pudding. I know it's not the same (just as Guiness in a bottle is not the same as Guiness on tap, etc.), but I was hungry, and it looked so good. Hunger was a good seasoning. I could tell it wasn't a great (Yorkshire) pudding (a tad rubbery), but it was delicious in the way that food is just heavenly when you're hungry.

    I'm hungry again. As Lucia would say, "I want meat! I want foooood."

  7. Oooooo!


  8. Excellent I read it to my husband.. he loveed it.

    We don't do much fireworks here.This year they were banned because of the fire threat here.

    But I do love them.


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