Cowart's Common Room
Bonfire Night of Old

So what did you used to do as a child on Bonfire Night - did you have a 'tradition'.

Every year when I was a child we would have tomato soup and a baked potato with loads of butter . . . drool . . .

Mum would have bought a box of fireworks and it was Dad's job to let them all off - he was seriously safety conscious. Our neighbours would also be letting off their fireworks so we would take it in turns so that we could enjoy each others fireworks.

Then afterwards Dad and I would go and take a walk round the neighbourhood watching other people's fireworks. I look back on Firework night with a fond eye. I also remember how smokey it seemed to be afterwards. I am sure there were times when it rained, but in my smokey rose coloured glasses every Bonfire Night was cold and crisp and clear.



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Posted at 6th Nov 2010 - 11:47AM   Posted by Westerwitch   Bonfire Night of Old Comments: 12

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Toady's Avatar The ones I remember are when I was about 10. We lived in terraced house that backed onto allotments. Mr. and Mrs Mears from the end terrace used to build the fire and we would all trudge over in our wellies and with a contributions of fireworks. Afterwards we'd all pile into her tiny kitchen and have massive, crunchy jacket spuds oozing with butter, salt and pepper. It could never get dark soon enough.

Posted by: Toady on 6th Nov 2010 at 12:08PM

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Westerwitch's Avatar Ah another one who had baked potatoes.

HS said they too had baked potatoes, but with mince his mum would skoop out the potato and mix it with the mince and put it back in the potato skin.

Frances asked in her post if we had sausages on Bonfire Night - I certainly don't remember any - but sounds yummy.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 6th Nov 2010 at 12:13PM

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Fennie's Avatar In my day people used to make Guys and dress them in old clothes and push them around the lanes and streets in an old pram or wheelbarrow extorting money from passers-by. Where this money went I never knew. I wondered if secretly it was being collected for a new attempt to blow up Parliament and if so whether I should contribute my penny to such a cause. But John Roberts and his little brother Tom seemed unlikely descendants of any Catholic conspiracy and I thought on balance that they were just after a few pence to buy gobstoppers. The Guys all ended up getting burnt (unlike the real Guy who I think was hung, drawn and quartered. Though according to Wikipedia - and this I didn't know - Faulkes actually jumped off the scaffold and broke his neck before he could be hung). Charity shops hadn't been invented then so the Guys were often quite well dressed.

I don't remember bonfires lighting easily in those times despite copious amounts of petrol, meths, candlewax, firelighters or anything else we could find to throw on them. Like the fireworks they seemed to fizzle and go out. This was as disappointing as the pictures on the side of the firework boxes which foretold pyrotechnic events of astonishing proportions. Either the merchants were fibbing or they just hadn't been informed by the manufacturers how few shooting stars or golden rain one could put in a firework for 3d. The best thing about them was the smell after wards of burnt gunpowder. I used to like sniffing the charred tubes, which always seemed illicit for my great aunt was always telling me stories about how fireworks could 'go-off' a second time, even when they had been lit and were now a damp and blackened tube. I wasn't quite sure I believed her.

And it was always cold and damp and wet and the chestnuts burnt your hands.

Posted by: Fennie on 6th Nov 2010 at 01:19PM

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Preseli Mags's Avatar We used to have a bonfire in the paddock with baked potatoes cooked in the embers wrapped in foil and tomato soup in mugs too. Dad used to let off fireworks - as did all the neighbours.

Then one year my sister and I made a guy and parked him outside our local pub in a wheelbarrow and collected money for fireworks.

The landlady, Mrs Weaver, suggested we let the fireworks off on the common ground in front of the pub. So we started to build a bonfire.

Then it snowballed. Everyone suddenly pitched in to help. The bonfire was huge. Someone turned up with a farm trailer for the fireworks. People seemed to come from far and wide and they all brought boxes of fireworks and a group of men let them off.

Mrs Weaver (the landlady) provided sausages in rolls and it somehow turned into an enormous impromptu bonfire party. I remember our neighbour, dressed to the nines (she used to be a model) handing out trays of food and flirting outrageously.

It still astonishes me now that it began just with me and my sister, aged about nine and 11, and a Guy in a wheelbarrow wearing Dad's old clothes. It only happened that once, but it was magical (and now I've made myself all nostalgic for that little village in Worcestershire that I grew up in!)

Posted by: Preseli Mags on 6th Nov 2010 at 01:35PM

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Inthemud's Avatar I lived in a small village in Norfolk, in the row of houses where I lived were several relatives , we used to do separate activities, then one year someone suggested we all get together and after that every year we would all get together in one of the gardens and have a big Bonfire, share food and fireworks, always lots of fun.

Remember Jumping Jacks before they were banned? Got really scared one year as some seemed to chase us round the garden, got hysterical!

Posted by: Inthemud on 6th Nov 2010 at 05:29PM

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Pimsonthelawn's Avatar We always had a huge bonfire as my dad was a Joiner, one year it got a bit out of control and blew a big hole in the back of the garage but no one seem to worry or bother about the damage. Yes I remember Jumping Jacks they bounced wildly around I remember one chased Dad I was really worried that his trouser were going to catch fire. I don't remember food at all I think i was just so excited about the fireworks, As Toady says it could never get dark soon enough just to be out there. Lots of petrol was used to get the fire going!

Posted by: Pimsonthelawn on 6th Nov 2010 at 06:39PM

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Withy Brook's Avatar I lost bonfire night from when I was 9 till 15 and by then I was at broarding school, where we did not celebrate it. My Father was a pyromaniac and I have inherited it from him. The bigger and louder the fireworks the better.
But - before the war, we used to go to a big house where a batchelor always had a firework party and in those days I was terrified!
After the war, fireworks gradually became available again and if I was at home, there would be a bonfire on the village green and we would have lots of fireworks ourselves. Nowadays, the bonfire still happens, but the fireworks are organised and everyone contributes the money.
Now? Last night we went out to play bridge and the only fireworks I saw were going off in a village some distance away from our route.
Baked potatoes belong in bonfires but NOT foil. The great joy was the burnt skin and the succulent potato inside. Don't forget that there was no such thing as foil in my younger days.
During my first marriage, we always had a bonfire party if we were somewhere were we could - fire, fireworks and baked potatoes. Now that I have started, I am remembering all sorts of things, but supper is ready, so I must stop. Laughing

Posted by: Withy Brook on 6th Nov 2010 at 07:18PM

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Fennie's Avatar Isn't it funny what we remember, when prompted like this? On the one hand you have those images: of sights and sounds and smells, so vivid that it seems you're eating the food and feeling the heat of the fire and on the other, some grey blancmange inside your skull - a few billion neurones, in a soup of microchemicals and somewhere in there are these bonfire night images and goodness knows what else besides. Much more than on a hard drive, many more pictures than Fickr and of course we have not yet learned how to capture sensations. Truly 'what a piece of work is man,' as Shakespeare has Hamlet say. I imagine Withy there were some good bonfires on VE day, for which I wasn't around, being conceived (or so my Mother used to say and the dates are about right) as part of some wild VJ (Victory over Japan) celebrations. It's all a bit random, isn't it? Life and what we remember.

Posted by: Fennie on 6th Nov 2010 at 07:57PM

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Withy Brook's Avatar VE Day, I was at School. Someone climbed up on the roof and rang the old bell that had once called workers in from the fields. (The school was evacuated to Studley Royal, a large house by Fountains Abbey) I cannot remember what we did, apart from a service in Ripon Cathedral and having the day off from lessons. V J day, I must have been at home, but I remember nothing of it. The main celebrations took place in London.

Posted by: Withy Brook on 6th Nov 2010 at 08:54PM

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Faith's Avatar I remember the tv ad 'Light up the sky with Standard fireworks, please do remember the 5th of November, light up the sky with Standard fireworks!'

And whatever night 5th Nov fell on, it was celebrated that night and that night only!

We didnt do much in our family - Daddy would bring home a box of said Standard fireworks, and we'd watch from the little patio as a golden fountain, or whatever they were called, dribbled and spluttered a bit and a rocket or two went off, and then write our names with sparklers.

I remember being more excited by Halloween, although we did nothing at all for that, but I'd sit for ages looking out of the window hoping to see a witch!

Posted by: Faith on 6th Nov 2010 at 10:28PM

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Frances's Avatar Thanks to each and every one of you for these Bonfire Night reminiscences. Fire, especially after sundown, has magic. Well, not if it comes too close to where you live, but let's just imagine the perfect bonfire night.

I love the UK tradition of dressing a Guy, and having that incorporate some fund gathering for a very good cause.

Jacket (or baked, as we call them over here) potatoes, or sausages or whatever fire-cooked foods of the night might be available ... grand to have this a November night that began with a historic reference, and has been handed down, with variations, from generation to generation, as a way for a community to come together.

Traditions based in history may evolve, and some of the history might evaporate, but all the same, as our days grow shorter and nights longer, a bit of fireworks are fun. Celebrate!

Posted by: Frances on 7th Nov 2010 at 03:08AM

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Camilla's Avatar Love the sound of tomatoe soup and jacket pots on bonfire night WW.

I remember standing outside with my friend at Marylebone Station in London with an old pram and the Guy we made up, we must have been around 10 years, old tin can tied with rope onto the handle of pram where money was dropped in. We waited for travellers who got off the train and as they passed said..... penny for the guy.

When my children were small I always loved to cook mini-sausages, and we had tiny cakes with butter cream in, and of course lots of fizzy pop.

Posted by: Camilla on 7th Nov 2010 at 11:45AM

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