The beginning of November always means getting geared up for Bonfire Night on the 5th November – Guy Fawkes Night in the UK. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Guy Fawkes before on this blog, who some say tried to blow up The Houses of Parliament in London, or if not the buildings then it was King James VI(Scotland) who was the target. This is the same man who was also referred to as King James I of the UK. I won’t do a repeat of the story, but if you need information these sites might help.
For many years, the village I live in had a ‘proper’ large bonfire.
This was set up a couple of days before the night of the 5th November by our local fire department representatives. These were local men and women who were our volunteer fire crew who juggled their own work with shifts at the fire station in the village. These guys took on the job of ensuring the bonfire was properly constructed; they lit and monitored the fire having set out the boundary tape for viewers to stand behind. They were also the ones who let off the ‘village fireworks’ paid for by our Community Council.
For a time, my hairdresser was one of the ‘stand-by’ crew. I’m so pleased that she was never called out when she was doing my hair, because if her beeper had gone off she’d have been out the door of the salon and running down the twenty yards to the fire station before I would have been able to say goodbye.
Sadly, things change. The farmer’s field where the bonfire was held became unavailable for village use and, I think, the fire crews weren’t able to help anymore because of changes to Fire Department regulations.
So, for a few years we had no large bonfire at all in the village.
This year, I was delighted to see some advance publicity saying that the village ‘Rotary Club’ had released funding to resurrect the village bonfire and fireworks tradition. For reasons I don’t know, it was held on the 6th November. I toddled across to the new venue – with my son-in-law, daughter and their young family- to the public playing field behind our Primary School, the land owned by the local council.
The village Rotary committee had done a sterling job with minimal finances available. There was cheery music. There were stalls selling ‘fluorescent wands’ for kids to wave around quite dramatically in the dark, and other stalls with toys for kids. There was a stall selling burgers etc and soft drinks. These stalls were run by some adults I know in the village, and many of my ex-pupils were helping out. When we got there the queues were enormous so we only waited in the burger one – well, it was too much temptation to avoid it!
Someone cheered bang on the time set- the cry went up that the bonfire was lit!
Where was it? I could see a little wispy smoke, but over the rows of onlookers that was all I could see. Moving along the row a bit more, I realised why. Since our public park is used by the local school and many other user groups, the committee were given the permission to light ‘bonfires’ but only if they were in huge metal drums – to minimise the damage to the grass beneath.
The three drums roared away quite well in the dark night but it just wasn’t quite the same. The wind was strong but because the wood was so contained there was little smoke drift and no smell at all. I really felt the lack of wood smoke. That was silly in a way, because it is an infinitely safer way to burn fires but it just wasn’t the same and when I excused my way into the front row to have a word with someone I’ve not seen for ages, I realised there was no heat drift either. Weird!
There were changes to the evening but I’m very glad that the event will go on in as close a form to the traditional as possible. The huge crowd who attended showed they appreciated the gesture. I hope the donations boxes which did the rounds of the crowds were stuffed full because that might mean an event is more likely next year.
Well done all of those volunteers.
I’d love to say I’ll just be dashing off a bonfire story this weekend, but I won’t becasue I’m attending a 2-day Christmas Craft Fair event where I’m selling my novels. As I write this on Friday evening I’ve had a long first day, but a very successful one. Roll on tomorrow and see what that brings.
Have a lovely weekend everyone.
Nancy Jardine writes Historical Adventures and Contemporary Mysteries – with different dashes of romance in them.