- Books, Literature, and Writing
Firework Smoke - a poem about Bonfire Night by Johnny Parker
Getting dark early and unseen firework smoke arrives inside my head.
I see the butter melt into still warm home made bread.
Explosion stirs some childish thoughts
Bonfire soup smoulders in the pan, burning today but mellow tomorrow.
I'm licking my lips like a dog eating chips
To light the blue paper with a glowing red taper
Flash bang it's gone
Bonfire Night Excitement
As a kid back in the Sixties, Bonfire Night, November 5th or Guy Fawkes Night, was one of the excitement peaks of the childish year. I have no idea why fireworks could generate so much ecstasy. I used to get almost as big a thrill from looking at them as seeing them go off. For about a month before hand I would have my face pressed to the window of our local newsagent, drinking in the sizes, shapes and colours. In the town centre of Liverpool there used to be a toy shop called Hobbies and they had monster fireworks. Rockets that I was convinced would go into Space. Air bombs that could flatten a small village. I would drool down my anorak gawping at them.
Of course such premier league fireworks were beyond our reach. We had to make do with a tame Family Selection box. But even so that was pretty good. One year my elder brother brought home a cardboard box full of loose fireworks. I could see a huge rocket with a red plastic cap and lightning bolt on the side poking out of the top. I nearly fainted with excitement. That was the best Guy Fawkes night ever.
In those days, before health and safety, the shops would sell fireworks to an eight year old without a second thought as to the mayhem they might get up to with them. Old toys got the Banger treatment. Bangers, being a useful multipurpose firework could easily be broken into and the gunpowder used for anything from Genies to safe cracking. It was also amazing how wild a cheap rocket became when you snapped the stick off it and lit the touchpaper. It reminded me of those old newsreel films of World War 2 rocket experiments where the rocket usually ended up chasing the people launching it.
The fun didn't end with November the 5th either. The next day would be used looking for spent rockets. The mini cardboard meteorites that would randomly appear in your back garden or the street. Small sixpenny ones were okay but what you really wanted to find was the casing to a huge exotic and expensive projectile that it was only possible to own when it was a burnt out hulk.
The bonfire itself was something else that lasted until the next day, smouldering moodily, waiting for kids to kick it back into life. Any bombsite or piece of wasteland was the home to a bonfier which the local kids would have been building for weeks from any bit of scrap wood they could find, from orange boxes to fence panels! Nothing was off limits. If it wasn't nailed down it would end up on the fire.
Guy Fawkes had many a fine time too, raising money in the weeks preceeding to buy bangers and rip-raps, only to be ungratefully thrown onto the top of the pyre.
Everything about Bonfire night was thrilling. From potatoes and chestnuts in the fire, to the indelible perfume of firework smoke forever imprinted in your deepest psyche and available to vividly bring back all those memories fifty years later.