Bonfire Night

One of those gloomy newspapers, the ones that always seem to think that the end of the world is nigh, the ones you don’t read if you have a glass-half-full sort of outlook, reckons that Bonfire Night is on its last legs.

It cites a number of reasons for this pronouncement, mostly featuring Hallowe’en six days earlier. For one thing, there’s little about Bonfire Night to allow shopkeepers to flog endless tat to undiscriminating tweens and teens. (Had they overlooked V for Vendetta masks?) For another, it’s American cultural imperialism, innit? Or, if neither of those explanations ring true, then it must be an oppressive health and safety culture that’s been a little too successful in preventing children from getting their fingers blown off in their own back gardens and thus being maimed for life.

Clearly the correspondent doesn’t live round here. I can’t comment on Hallowe’en, since I was in London and thankfully have no idea how many lisping brats banged on my door seeking nutritionally unsound recompense. But I can tell you that, contrary to the reports of its imminent demise, Bonfire Night is bloody thriving. This is the sort of town that has a large, well-established and very well-organised firework display. On a sportsground at the edge of town is built a bonfire so large you could easily accommodate a small cottage underneath. On the night it featured a small but suitably traditional funfair (are they really still allowed to flog goldfish in plastic bags?) replete with things like candyfloss, toffee apples, tooth-extracting nougat and all the similar things I remember coveting as a child. Wander round the ground’s perimeter and you could sample every kind of outdoor food from soup and burgers in buns to a full-blown hog roast. There was tea and coffee and a rather well-attended bar in the clubhouse.

And it seems like half the town goes to this event. Hundreds of teenagers in attendance and, at least from the bit of muddy grass that I was standing on, not a hint of an atmosphere. Parents and little kids, people like us with no kids at all who just like fireworks. It would not surprise me to learn that there were in excess of a thousand people present, although clearly estimating the numbers milling around on a dark sports field on a winter evening is hardly an exact science.

As to the fireworks? They were superb. Big, flashy, overhead things that looked like chrysanthemums and oriental orchids. Not too much emphasis on the rather boring ground-based ones. Instead the money had gone into great big starburst rockets that could probably be seen in villages 20 miles away and which allowed for plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from those lucky souls standing underneath. And the whole thing was set to music, and they managed to get that 2005 orchestration of the Doctor Who theme tune in there.

And not a drop of rain until we were most of the way home. So don’t give me ‘Bonfire Night is dead.’