Friday, 4 November 2016

Light up the sky...

The excitement of Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching, and once again I have mixed feelings. As a child, I loved bonfires and fireworks, but now I worry about the distress caused to wildlife and pets and the possible consequences for the environment. Naturally, none of that bothered me when I was little because I was busy having fun.

Brock's Fireworks

Back then there was ample space to build fires and plenty of things to burn.  Tree branches, old fertiliser sacks and worn-out tyres made for good fires, although the black acrid smoke had a way of leaving eyes stinging, and adult tempers frayed! Each year my brother, sister and I would begin with a small pile of rubbish and watch as the mound grew ever larger. Looking back I’m sure everyone in the village had a hand in it, although at the time I was convinced magic was afoot!  Living on a farm, we built our fires in open fields making them readily available to anyone with rubbish to burn.


Standard Fireworks
For me, the real excitement began with the arrival of the fireworks.  We usually had a large selection box with at least a few extra rockets and several packets of sparklers. When the night finally arrived, we made sure Peggy our dog and Kosset the cat were inside. Then it was time to don wellies, hats, coats, scarves and gloves all the while feeling the excitement building. Much pushing and shoving ensued as we put left feet into right boots and gloves on backwards, eventually, we would sort ourselves out and make a dash for the back door. In my memory, it was always really cold on bonfire night just as it was hot and dry in the summer. Can that be or is it my memory playing tricks?

Standard Fireworks

Once we were all warmly dressed it was time for the lighting of the bonfire, often helped by a can or two of petrol! Finally, the biscuit tins where the fireworks were kept would be opened, and dad would ‘light the blue touch paper and retire’.  Now the waiting … would it be a Rocket, a Roman candle, a Falling Rain or a Jumping Jack? Do you remember Jumping Jacks? They always had us running for cover, no wonder they are now banned.  

Standard Fireworks

The Catherine Wheels were sometimes a bit of a disappointment, either they whizzed off the nails and spluttered out in the damp grass, or they refused to turn at all.  Many were the times my dad or my brother approached a lit Catherine Wheel and tried to give it a push or even attempted to loosen the nail holding it to the fence. It’s a miracle they didn’t end up with burnt fingers or worse.

Fireworks

 All too soon the fireworks were over, and it was time to hunt the potatoes languishing in the embers of the fire. We did this by prodding at the fire with sticks while at the same time trying to ‘hook’ the potatoes sideways away from the heat. By now, they would be burnt black on the outside, but soft and flavoursome inside. At the end of the evening Dad would be left on 'fire duty' while the rest of us went inside for warm drinks. Then it was off to bed and the comfort of hot-water bottles to thaw out frozen toes.   

Pains Fireworks

When our son Steven was born, we once again built fires, watched Rockets and Falling Rain, held sparklers and ate baked potatoes. Only now the fires were smaller as befitting a housing estate and there was no petrol involved!  Spent sparklers were plunged into water to make sure they were properly out and potatoes were pre-baked in the oven and wrapped in foil.  A few years later, we were blessed with grandsons, and the rituals began again.  The boys are grown up now, and our two small granddaughters live in Australia.  Organised bonfires seem to be the order of the day. Some of our neighbours might have a few fireworks in their gardens, but I doubt any of them will light a bonfire.

Standard Fireworks

This coming bonfire night Terry and I will be at home reminiscing about times gone past. Whatever you do, enjoy it, stay safe and don’t burn your fingers on those hot potatoes!

Standard Fireworks


In childhood the daylight always fails too soon—except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest.~Jan Struther 

Do you have plans for November 5th, or memories of past Bonfire Nights? If you don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night are there any other occasions when you enjoy fireworks?  Maybe you don’t like fireworks? I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. 

All images courtesy of the fireworkmuseum.co.uk



Photograph Twitter (@metoffice) Don't forget to check for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire this Bonfire Night. 

Tracy from Pen and Paper left a comment with a link to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I love hedgehogs and am happy to include the link here (you will find Tracy’s comment below should you wish to read it).
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47 comments:

  1. HaHa! This is gonna be good....!!!
    I~HATE~FIREWORKS...and ALL that goes with it!
    I'm afraid since l can remember, l hated them,
    and, nothing to do with me, but, my daughter,
    grew up feeling the same way!
    The main reason..yes..pets and wild life..when
    my pussy~cat George was alive, we'd sit on the
    settee, when the fireworks started going off,
    it was a race between me and him, on who got
    under the stairs first! :). Bless him!x

    Let's be serious for a mo....
    Nov 5th..Bonfire night..Guy Fawkes..Now! Who
    was Guy Fawkes..Let's not beat about the bush,
    he was a..'Terrorist'. Right! Right!
    He tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament...
    (pity he's not about to~day, come back Guy..all
    is forgiven). HeHe! :).
    So if you wanna go out and burn things, letting
    off, useless, money wasting fireworks..so be it!
    Don't forget to check yer bonfires, before lighting
    them, for hedgehogs...There on the decline as it is! :(.

    Well Barbara....You did ask....!!! :0).

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  2. Indeed, I did Willie!

    Good point about hedgehogs I’ve added a bit to the end of the post with a nice picture and message from the Met Office. They have obviously diversified – no longer just gale-force warnings!

    We don’t have a dog which is something of a blessing considering bonfire ‘night’ goes on for several weeks. All of our dogs hated fireworks and looking back I’m sure Peggy and Kosset must have been terrified, but as I say as a child, none of that worried me. I’ve always loved fireworks, but I would rather watch them on TV now. I don’t like getting cold.

    You are right about Guy Fawkes, and I agree many of our ministers (and judges!) need a rocket .... (nuff said)

    I hope you have someone to cuddle up to this firework's night, I would hate to think of you under the stairs all on your lonesome. ;-)

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  3. Cuddle? Cuddle?
    Just a Cuddle...
    When you get a cuddle its such a lovely thing,
    comfort to your heart, a cuddle it will bring,
    make you feel secure, sheltered from all harm,
    make you feel relaxed, makes you feel so calm,
    just a little cuddle, just that tender touch,
    can make you feel so safe, and can mean so much!
    Amen!

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  4. Great post about Guy Fawkes Day, Barbara, I love reading about your growing up memories. My dad told us about it when we were kids and we always wanted to celebrate Bonfire Night, but alas, it never happened. I wanted to make a Guy effigy like I had read about in books, now I'd like to make one but with blond hair if you get my drift.

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    1. I do get your drift Alex, and sympathies with it! We have a blond one of our own plus several others that would make excellent Guys! Thank you for your kind words about my memories. I’m never really sure if anyone is interested so I feel reassured by your comment.

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  5. I, like Alex, enjoyed reading about your memories of growing up, Barbara! And I love all the images in your post today. :) I hope you have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks so much Linda, have a lovely weekend. x

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  6. Thanks for the mention of hedgehogs. Loving our prickly friends as I do may I direct anyone visiting your blog to the following page of advice from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

    http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/twiggy-sparks-bonfire-night-hedgehog-checks/

    Mr T and I shall also be spending a quiet Guy Fawkes indoors ... my asthma and all that smoke don't really mix.

    I adored fireworks as a girl, especially sparklers, but just like you as I matured I came to better understand that it wasn't all fun. Mind you it was ONE night then and not for weeks leading up to the night as it can be now.

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  7. Hi Tracy I have a friend with asthma and I'm sure she must dread firework night. I've added the link to the end of the post, thanks so much for including it, Barbara

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  8. Nice memories. Here in Germany we have fireworks at New Year. I'm not a friend of fireworks, as a child in London I used to hide myself away!
    Have a fun and safe time, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Hello Valerie, it seems a lot of people have problems with fireworks. I do like to see them but think they should be restricted to certain nights (like New Year and Firework Night). The problem in England now is that people have them all year round, which is awful for anyone or anything with a fear of them.

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  9. What wonderful pictures! I must admit I like organised fireworks- on designated evenings. In Louisiana we used to have bonfires along the bayous and rivers to guide Père Noel on Christmas Eve. Now that I am older, I am happy to see the pets and the wildlife taken into consideration. I do love a good bonfire! Will you and Terry at least enjoy some hot potatoes?

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    1. Hello Colleen, We’ve always enjoyed fireworks and certainly don’t dislike them now, but we do worry about wild life and pets. Come tomorrow evening, we will no doubt be rushing to the windows in an effort to see a few fireworks. Jacket potatoes are a must for Bonfire Night as are sausages and beans.

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    2. Did you enjoy the fireworks? Sausage + beans + jacket potatoes (plenty of butter!!!)sounds delicious...

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    3. We enjoyed both the fireworks and supper, thank you. You can't have jackets without butter - it's against the law! :-)

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  10. I love fireworks, but from a safe distance!! I like to hold sparklers, but all the others make me very nervous if I'm too close.

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    1. Hello Teressa, a safe distance is always best! Thanks for coming over.

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  11. Thanks for an account of how the event is spent. I didn't know there were fireworks. We enjoy watching them for our Independence Day celebrations and of course New Year's Eve. I don't light them though. Had one blow up near my ear when I was a kid and my ears rang for days.

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    1. Hello Alex, that must have been very unpleasant, but I’m glad no permanent damage was done. It had not occurred to me until you said it, but in my experience lighting of fireworks is usual left to the man of the house. I wonder if that has changed among young women, or if it is still the same.

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  12. I used to love bonfire night as a child but now they worry me. The fireworks have become so powerful they have more bang than the hand grenades we were issued in the Marines.
    Needless to say my cats are even less impressed.

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    1. How right you are Roger. Some of them are so loud they shake the windows. I like the pretty ones – from a safe distance, such as inside the house! I feel for your cats it must be terrifying for them.

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  13. Well that brought back some memories. I remember one snowy bonfire night and think we had never been so cold! Hot milk with sugar, jacket potatoes and toffee, used to love it - hate it now! Our little hedgehog has not gone to bed yet, he sleeps under a pile of planks in our neighbours garden and comes to us every morning for water and food. He actually let me stroke his head yesterday, what a privilege.

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    1. Hello Sue, I don’t remember the snow. I wish I could it must have been pretty as well as cold. I don’t remember the hot milk and sugar either, although I do remember drinking something warm. Mum used to make lovely toffee, and coconut ice. I tried making some coconut ice recently but couldn’t eat it because it was just so sweet. It shows how our tastes change as we get older. You were privileged indeed to stroke the hedgehog. I hope none of your neighbours are building a bonfire? Maybe you should hang onto him tomorrow evening and let him out again the morning.

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  14. We didn´t have bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night in Canada. It wasn´t until I married my Englishman that I heard of it. We did have fireworks on July 1, which is Canada´s birthday. Here in Spain there are fireworks for everything as they love to celebrate. The fireworks on New Year´s Eve are spectacular and we can see them from our terrace. I bet those baked potatoes were delicious!! Nice childhood memories.

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    1. Hello Darlene, I’ve enjoyed seeing lots of photographs of Spanish fiestas on your blog. Your neighbours certainly like to party! Maybe you will share some of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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  15. Barbara, first, if I may, I would like to thank Willie for that beautiful poem. It is so true to my memories of cuddling Elizabeth, the world would disappear and it would be just us two............ So! Just as I thought an absolute cracker Barbara! Thanks for portraying your memories of Bonfire night so vividly, a delight to read. I certainly remember Jumping Jacks and bangers/squibs and one time I put together a two stage rocket (four small ones strapped to a big central one with a fuze to light the big one once in the air. It worked quite well ) Nowadays my only activity regarding fireworks is to see how many rocket sticks I can find after the event. John

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    1. Hi John, thank you for sharing that lovely memory with us. I’m sure there are many times when you wish you could bring those days back.

      What is it with boys, bangers and rockets? My brother once put a banger inside a milk bottle “to see what would happen". Much to his surprise the bottle exploded, and a stray piece of glass sliced into his nose. He got a good hiding to add to his pain and didn’t do it again! Your rocket contraption sounds incredible! I think it was another little boy just like you who invented some of the enormous rockets available now.

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  16. What a fantastic celebration! I love any excuse for fireworks and bonfires. They're both so exciting, and the food around a bonfire can't be beat!

    I'd like to send you an eCopy of Alligators Overhead. Your comment on my blog last week was the very best, and you gave me an idea for how to end the story of Pete and Weasel escaping from the terrible rattling of bones. If you'll email me, I'll send the book. cleemckenzieATgmailDOTcom. Here's to a wonderful Guy Fawkes celebration.

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    1. Thank you so much Lee, I will email you directly.

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  17. Dearest Barbara! HELLO! I get your posts late in my email but always so happy to see you have posted.

    Magic is always in the air when we are children, and the smokier, the better it always seemed. We don't celebrate this occasion in the states, but our fourth of July is rife with celestial pollution and light! I admire and respect your concern for the environment, pets and nature and the open spaces we used to have to engage in such BEAUTIFUL and primitive activities no longer exist. Here many decades ago, people were allowed to burn leaves in autumn, but with so much urban and suburban sprawl, it is illegal AND very dangerous.

    Oh those hedgehogs; the only place I see them here are in pet stores. Bless you dear friend, and enjoy the midnight sky!

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    1. Hello Anita,
      We don’t celebrate the Fourth of July (as you know), but we do see snippets of the celebration online and on TV, and it always looks like fun. Bonfire Night is also fun, and we will be looking out for fireworks later on tonight. The only difference is we will be oohing and aahing from inside!

      We used to see hedgehogs in our garden every year but there have been none at all for at least three years.

      Thank you as always for your friendship and lovely words.

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  18. Those packaging designs are so evocative - takes me right back to childhood. Like Valerie, I'm in Germany so we get fireworks at New Year - they are only really sold at this time unless you go to a specialist store. But that got me thinking - I assume you can order them on the internet these days which does make them available all year.

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    1. Hello Sue, fireworks seem to be available in the UK at any/all times of the year. There are guidelines as to when they should be used, but I don’t think anyone pays them much attention. I’ve just looked online and they are readily available, so I guess that answers the question.

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  19. What a fun story! Although I've never had the pleasure of celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, it brings back many childhood memories of 4th of July, here in the states. We'd run around spinning sparklers never realizing how dangerous they were. And potatoes! When I read that, I was like, wait a minute, did she just mention potatoes? I love the idea of cooking them in the bonfires. Smoke pits are very popular here now, but I'm not a fan, at all. We rush about closing windows when the neighbors get theirs going--so smelly! Like you, I'm not as thrilled about fireworks as an adult, too many dangers and too much pollution. Although we did participate in many viewings while my kids were growing up. Thanks for a lovely post!

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    1. Hi Marcia, we did the same with sparklers, and my brother was not averse to walking around with a lit firework in his hand – only throwing it down at the last possible moment. Even getting the potatoes out of the fire was fraught with danger. We used sticks, but Dad would kick at the fire with his foot causing sparks to shoot up into the sky and sometimes come back down to land on coats and woolly hats! There was no thought for safety, but he always made sure the fire was properly out before going to bed.
      I’m like you if anyone lights a bonfire now, especially on a summer evening when all the windows are open. Most inconsiderate!

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  20. you are right as we grow old the sense of responsibility replace the feeling of fun .
    i like when i see at the sky full of colorful shiny patterns but i dont like the harm firework cause to the nature

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    1. It does and in some ways that is quite sad. I often wish I could be as carefree as I was when little. I like the patterns in the sky, but I don’t enjoy the bangs so can only imagine how terrifying it must be for animals and birds.

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  21. I loved fireworks when I was little. Everything seemed like such fun when they were lighting up the sky. Now I have a neighbor who sets them off way too much for me. I prefer them just once a year to celebrate the 4th of July. They are pretty, but I know the bangs aren't enjoyed by all and the debris can't be great either (though I don't know much about it and am now thinking I will have to look into it). I do feel bad for animals who don't like all the loud noises and lights.

    Bonfires aren't something I have experienced very often- but campfires on a small scale are popular where I live.

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    1. I loved them too and still do really but as mentioned in the post, I worry more about things these days.
      Camp fires are fun!

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  22. Hi Barbara trying to catch-up. We did not have bonfire nights but there was the Festival of Lights in India. Although we did not celebrate it but for us kids it was excitement and fun because we got invited by our friends for the fire works. We used to be served many different kinds of sweets and I remember my friend's mum would get us kids to light up little lamps to be placed outside on the stairs. Then the fireworks would start. I remember something call a jet and the there was those wheels like yours which either jumped off the wire and onto the ground or just fizzled off half way. Then there was something like a fountain. Then something called rocket. I don't know how they allowed those because they were pretty dangerous. They had a little metal pill box like thing which would whiz all over the place. Then there was something called snake . We would run screaming and climb on chairs etc very dangerous as one never knew which direction they would go. But luckily we all survived without any mishaps and enjoyed ourselves.

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    1. Hello Shashi, your comment brought back lots of memories for me. I remember fountains. Some were called golden showers or golden rain, and others were known as pyramids. I know exactly what you mean about the rockets, they were supposed to go straight up but usually ended up whizzing along the ground sending us kids running for our lives! wonder if the snake was something like the jumping jacks, they certainly looked like a little coiled snake in the box.
      I’ve seen pictures of the Festival of Lights in India but have been fortunate enough to visit. It sounds wonderful. you for sharing your memories and rekindling some of my own.

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  23. Fireworks are banned in Singapore for safety reasons. Our space is scarce and building construction too dense for them. We do see fireworks during National Day and the sparklers are so pretty. I can imagine the hot potatoes in your hands as you watched the brilliant night sky, Barbara. And you're right: make sure the animals are safe before you light up.

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    1. Hello Claudine, I had no idea about the ban in Singapore. I’ve just been reading about it on the National Library Board of Singapore website. Blogging is such a learning experience, thank you for that.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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