Monday, 5 November 2012

Guy Fawkes night

is no longer held here. I will not say "celebrated" because there really is nothing celebratory about "gunpowder, treason and plot".
Fireworks are, except under professional pyrotechnic expertise, banned where I live. That is not to say they do not get smuggled in from elsewhere. They do. Nevertheless they are not sold openly.
They were sold openly when I was a mere kitten. Each year fireworks would appear for sale in various locations. Pocket money would be saved, money would be scrounged from parents and other relatives and children would go and buy "rockets" and "wheels" and "fountains", "sparklers" and "squibs" and variations on all these things.
There were the almost inevitable serious accidents and fires. It is the beginning of our long, hot, dry and dangerous fire season so eventually they were banned for reasons of public safety.
I can understand that. I am not fond of fireworks. I used to worry about the animals who did not understand and were frightened by the noises. I worried about the potential for humans to injure themselves (or others) or destroy their own and other people's property through carelessness and ineptness. 
As a child I suppose I was less concerned by this. We never saw very many fireworks. My mother would never allow us to buy them for ourselves.
This did not stop our paternal grandfather buying them for us. I think this surprised my mother. "Grandpa" was a mid-Victorian gentleman. He was not, apparently, the sort of person to enjoy playing with children, let alone children and fireworks. He never let us down while we lived close enough for him to appear on that wonderful evening.
In anticipation of this we children would have cleaned the garden up of any rubbish that might burn. My father would, despite my mother's protests, have cleared the space for the bonfire. He would have added scraps of timber he had been storing for the night.
Our grandparents would arrive. The fire would be lit. We would wait for it to grow dark. Then a large brown paper bag would magically appear in Grandpa's hands. Out would come the rocket and the Catherine wheel, the fountain, the little packet of squibs and the flat packet of sparklers. They would be laid out in a row, well away from the flames.
Grandma would produce another paper bag. In it would be one potato for each of us. They would be carefully placed in the right places at the ashy edges of the fire. Grandpa would keep watching the sky until he decided it was dark enough to "see". We knew not to be impatient. We trusted him to know the best moment to start the display.
Then my brother and I would sit on either side of my grandmother and each hold one of her hands in delicious anticipation and the display was on. We would raise our hands together and cheer as each of the fireworks showed their glory. When they were done we would write our names in the air with the sparklers. Grandma would prod the potatoes and eventually pronounce them "done". Butter and salt were produced and the potatoes eaten in all their messy, ash covered deliciousness. The bonfire would be hosed down and we would be sent off to bed. From there we could watch other and much bigger rockets whooshing into the night sky. It did not bother us. They were for "big people" and we knew we were not big - yet.
We never did have fireworks as "big people". I doubt we would have wanted them. What we both missed were our grandparents who understood we needed to have fireworks and potatoes just like everyone else.

3 comments:

Nicole MacDonald said...

I can deal with the night of fireworks but I would really like to see them only sold on the day. For the last three nights I've worn earplugs to bed thanks to the fireworks and then the fire engine screaming past our house... Curiously enough our dog LOVES fireworks and we'll have to walk the streets with her tonight as she shrieks in pure joy. That dog really does have a screw loose...

Jan said...

When I was a child, Empire Day, May 24, was bonfire night. This was NSW. There was a half holiday from school to build bonfire. My fireworks or crackers were chosen individually by me weeks beforehand, thanks to money from my grandmother. I am sure there were must have been casualties but there was little publicity given to these. In late autumn, darkness came early so it was not a late night for us. Perhaps the best bit was the menu, never varying. Hot homemade sausage rolls with my mother's superb homemade pastry. These accompanied pea and ham soup, again homemade.

I don't remember hearing crackers in the lead up days.

Eventually Queens Birthday weekend replaced the May date and displays became more community organised.

Guy Fawlkes day has never been big over here. In fact when I read various blogs about fireworks displays, I had to stop and work out why it was in November.

catdownunder said...

your dog is amazing Nicole - don't know one dog here (or cat) which would like fireworks!
Sounds lovely Jan - and a much more sensible time to have something like that is obviously autumn!