There's something so uplifting about Autumn. It brings Halloween: pumpkins, witches and ghosts galore. The colours are amazing: oranges, browns, plums. The cool breeze whips around your hair, pulling it back loosely. As you step outside the leaves crunch beneath your feet, the silver moon glistening down as you stride. The smells are luscious; spices, apples, cinnamon...smoke.
Yes, smoke. As with Autumn, you have November. And with November, you have Bonfire Night. The Halloween spirit has begun to die down – wigs and wands are being sold for 50p a piece in your local supermarket – and now the shelves are lined full with rockets, sparklers, gloves the lot. Everywhere you look there are posters about keeping safe, and plastered aside them information about the fire brigade can be found. There seems to be an uncanny fascination with being given permission to make something explode that one day a year. Is it worth the hassle though?
Of course, Remember Remember the 5th of November as the saying goes, is not all about fire works. It takes us back to the same day in 1605. The event that led us to marking the occasion became known as the Gunpowder Plot. On this evening, a number of people attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The most recognised conspirator now is none other than Guy Fawkes. A warning letter had been received by the Parliament, which then led to a search of the grounds, and luckily the plot to blow up the building (and King James I) was stopped before it was too late. Thus resulting in the arrest and executed.
Now, we apparently celebrate Bonfire Night, o 'Guy Fawkes Night' in such a way to mark such an eventful and close night those many years ago. Yet, I feel that the whole reason behind the occasion is drifting. Not once do I see a poster or display about Guy, and I have a feeling that if I asked my younger siblings who Guy Fawkes was, I'd be met with blank looks. As a child though, I was well aware of this Mr Fawkes, and I did not like him one bit!
Bonfire Night for me as a child was very much a family occasion. Each year, we would all pile into my Grandma's house and have our evening meal, a hot cup of coffee for the adults and a cup of juice for the children. Afterwards, as the evening was just beginning to darken, we would wrap up warm in your thick jackets and cosy gloves, and head out into the garden. Filling a basin up with water, my Grandma would be greeted my squeals of delight from us children, who knew exactly what was happening. Then, as if it was the most magical thing in the world, the adults would produce packets of sparklers and give one to each of us. After making sure we were holding the sticks the right way around, our ends would be lit and before you knew it, you had three children dancing around the yard (safely!), creating wonderfully bright coloured swirls and shapes in the air. The smell was gorgeous – a sharp and seasonal aroma. I loved to write my name in the air, hoping for the pink colours to kick in. After the sparkler had frazzled out, we would place them carefully into the basin of water, and start the process all over again until all the packets were empty. It was such a magical occasion.
One year, we decided not to go to my Grandma's. Instead the whole family thought we should take a trip to a local family pub to watch a fireworks display. The Poacher's Pocket (which I believe at the time was called the Crowley Arms) held firework displays on Bonfire Night annually, though we only ever went once. The pub itself was wonderful, catering for everybody. On the night, we seated ourselves around a picnic table towards the bottom of the garden area, and myself and my two cousins spent a few hours running riot in the little play park, down the slide and scrambling across the monkey bars. That alone was great fun. I have always loved the Autumn breeze, so to be let free among it was simply delightful, especially with crunchy leaves and conkers all around me.
Then it was time for the fireworks display. In the centre there was a home-made Guy Fawkes – something again that I see very little of nowadays – and a rope was put around the display quite a distance back. Everybody at the pub gathered around, my family and I quite near the front so the little ones could see properly. There was lots of house hold items and general trash piled around the Guy, who was securely roped up and tied to a wooden stick. They lit the display, and we watched as the Guy doll burned. You could almost hear is squeals of pain, his little eyes melting as he stared at you accusingly. It was so sinister, and something I feel little children should not experience. Nonetheless it was still quite enjoyable.
After the display was cremated, it was time for the real display. From the other side of the rope, rockets and fireworks of all kinds were beginning to be set up. Catherine wheels could be heard slowly clicking, and before we knew it, rockets were screeching high into the sky and exploding into a burst of colour. I must admit, I adore seeing fireworks open up and reveal their true colours – gorgeous displays of pinks and silvers, flowers of purples and blue. Unfortunately, they have no mute button and I have to put up with their wails at the same time.
The Bonfire Night was the last time I ever celebrated the occasion. I cannot deny that it was an amazing evening, but after that, something must have clicked inside my brain, forcing me to fear for the evening. I have no idea what its cause is, but now I simply cannot bear being anywhere near fireworks. My neighbour had a display in the back garden a few years ago, and my bedroom window is right next to it, so I took myself off to the far corner of the living room at the other end of the tiny flat, terrified out of my mind. One year my Mam had to go to the shop in the evening on Bonfire Night, and I was not yet at the age when I could stay at home alone, so I had no choice but to accompany her. I feel sorry for my Mam, as I hung onto her arm the whole way there and back, shaking with fear as the rockets soared from all directions.
My Mam is getting married this year on the 5th of November, which is luckily for me not going to have anything to do with Bonfire Night. Though had the tickets not been £70+, we were going to be going to a large fireworks display in the North East. I am just pleased for overpriced entry fees in that case – how would I have got out of that one?! I love how fireworks look, but I am simply too petrified of them to have anything to do with them. Even sparklers terrify the life out of me.
I blame television. I watch EastEnders and Coronation Street religiously, and every year there seems to be an accident of some sort on either of the soaps, involving fireworks. It has got to the stage where I cannot watch the Bonfire Night episode, as that alone gives me shivers. The soaps are nail biting as it is, but that takes it one step too far for me. Its such a horrid thing to fear, as it will be the burden of my career. I have high hopes for what I want to achieve as a future TV Presenter, including the desire to present the big television events such as Children in Need and the Christmas shows. And what do you have at the end of each show? Fireworks! I can just see myself and a fellow male presenter as it usually goes, saying the final few words out to the nation before the last music acts takes to the stage. The fireworks explode somewhere in the near distance, and I hit the floor in fear. Well, it will give the viewers a laugh to say the least!
I had a lot of happy memories as a child with Bonfire Night. Those evenings 'at Grandma's' were wonderful, and that one fireworks display was an amazing experience. However the joys stop there. Maybe one day I will over come my fear, especially if my career were to depend on it, but this year I will spend the evening tucked up safe in my Mam's house while the siblings dance about in the yard all gloved up with sparklers in hand. As long as they have a good time, that is all that matters, and I shall cower with the dog!
I wish you all a safe and happy Bonfire Night this November 5th!