Archive for the ‘Bonfire Night’ Tag
This blog has been neglected of late. There’s been a lot of life stuff getting in the way of the writing, which I hope to talk about at a later date.
Today, though, is Hallowe’en. As a horror writer I feel I can’t let the day go by without comment.
The irony is that for the first ten years of my life, Hallowe’en completely passed me by. Living in the North of England in the 1970s, we didn’t really celebrate Hallowe’en – possibly because we have Bonfire Night five days later, which was a much bigger deal – when the whole neighbourhood would throw their scrap wood in a pile on a vacant lot all year, and then on 5 November it would be lit to create a big bonfire, and everyone on the street would gather to watch fireworks and light sparklers and eat Parkin and black peas. And if none of these things mean anything to you, you’re probably not British.
Anyway, in January 1980 we moved to Canada, and in October of that year I experienced Trick or Treating for the first time. I was a week past my eleventh birthday. I dressed up as a princess. My sister and I went out with my mother and stepfather and a couple of friends, and we hit three or four of the neighbourhood streets. I came back with a haul of candy so large it lasted me pretty much until the following Hallowe’en.
I didn’t get many trick or treating years in, as two years later – a week past my thirteenth birthday and in Grade 7 – I decided I was too old for trick or treating and volunteered to sit at the front door handing out the candy. I ended up serving it up to quite a lot of my classmates that year. Which they seemed to find quite embarrassing.
What I’ve always loved about Hallowe’en, though, is the concept of dressing up – of being somebody I’m not, just for a day. In high school everyone was allowed to turn up for school in costumes for Hallowe’en. One year I decided to go as a punk. This was so far removed from what I usually looked like at school that most people didn’t recognise me. Which was the idea, of course. And it was quite liberating, to shed my usual goody-two-shoes image and pretend to be a bad-ass. Even if it was for just a few hours, and it was entirely theoretical because I was way too timid to be a bad-ass for real.
Nowadays I’m in the UK again and although Hallowe’en is more of a thing than it was when I was a kid, it’s still not as big a deal as Bonfire Night. Trick or treating happens, but not everyone buys into it and for stores it’s pretty much nothing more than another retail opportunity. Some kids may get to go to school in costume, and some retail outlets let their staff dress up in spooky costumes for Hallowe’en, but I don’t know any offices that will let you do so, and as I sit here typing this at my desk at the day job (I am officially on my lunch break, so even now I’m not breaking any rules), it’s just business as usual.
But in spite of that, I still want to acknowledge the occasion.
Today I’m pleased to welcome Daisy Banks to the blog, to talk about a uniquely British tradition. Welcome, Daisy!
By Daisy Banks
I love this time of year. The excitement of Halloween has just passed and now we in the UK have something else to look forward to, Bonfire Night on 5 November. As I child I adored Bonfire Night. The explosions of colour and sound were a delight. My brothers and I would collect as much scrap wood as we could get our grubby little hands on to make a bonfire. We always made a Guy to go on the top, often utilising an old pair of my father’s overalls to form the body. Some of our creations were quite realistic.
The excitement in our house grew with each passing day and when the fireworks were bought we’d look at the enticing little packages eager to see what they might be called. The names conjured all kinds of expectations: Demon Flight, Flowerpots, Helicopters, obviously a variety of rockets, and my favourite Catherine Wheels. Purely to keep us quiet my mother would produce small packs of Bengal Matches and we would be allowed to light a few to watch the coloured smoke drifting in the breeze. We might even get a sparkler or two to make patterns in the air during an evening before the great event.
Bonfire night itself was always wonderful; only once in my entire childhood was the great event rained off. Most Bonfire nights we were lucky, the evening would be clear, crisp and often very cold. The fire would be well stacked, our Guy heaved up onto the top in pride of place and then the blaze would be lit. My brothers and I circling it as the flames climbed higher.
The fireworks were part of the moment and lit our garden with a multitude of colours, and we’d watch other rockets competing with ours as they headed up into a starry night. My memories are vivid of the event.
It’s odd to think all this joy and excitement is part of a national act of remembrance of the grim death of one political activist in the seventeeth century.
Here is a snippet from the work in progress. I’m hopeful this will be available to buy in the New Year.
Thanks for hosting me Sara-Jayne.
Excerpt from work in progress: To Eternity
Magnus glanced at the lively bonfire and accepted Sian’s arm laced through his.
“We can get some mulled wine, sweet toffee popcorn if you want and the fireworks are due to begin in about five minutes.” Her eyes shone bright and her infectious excitement stilled his ponderings and raised his smile.
“I haven’t had mulled wine in an age,” he said and let her lead him on.
“Oh, Magnus, look. Candy floss.” Sian pointed to a stall where the bright pink confection shuddered on sticks and was also bagged up ready for sale.
“Would you like some?”
Her smile rose, spread wider. “Please. Don’t you like it too?”
He shook his head. “I’d prefer to buy it for you. Let’s get that and then find somewhere to stand to get a good view of the fireworks.”
They did and ten minutes later, while Sian finished the last of the candy and he sipped a glass of warm mulled wine, the first rocket soared into a clear, dark winter sky as though it wanted to reach the furthest stars.
The small crowd of on-lookers responded to each element of the display, children yelled while their parents made appreciative sounds. Sian nestled in his embrace. He rested his chin on her shoulder. She stood a little lower than usual, in Wellington boots instead of her normal heels. Another flash of electric blue bloomed into a cascade of violet and orange sparks dancing into the night.
A contentment of sharing this experience with her mellowed his usual concerns at being at such a public event.
The other people here offered no sidelong glances, no questions were asked and he relaxed further. Together he and Sian stood in the same way many couples did, cuddled close, arms entwined, their heads close together as the fireworks crackled and roared into the cold night. He’d no doubt the couples around them loved, old or young, newly-wed, or those who’d been together for years, they loved and had the knowledge they were free to do so.
A freedom denied to him and anyone who might love with him.
To find out more about Magnus and Sian, you can read the beginning of their story in Daisy’s book Timeless. Buy link here: http://amzn.to/HkWhHX
Learn more about Daisy and her writing at the following links;
Free firework images from: www.iceflowstudios.com