Gun Powder, Treason, Treacle and Toffee Apples

It says something for the rebellious spirit of Yorkshire that a man who tried to blow up the houses of parliament is celebrated in pagan like fashion some 500 years after his demise. Guy Fawkes…it’s often said he was probably the only man ever to enter the houses of parliament with honest intentions. Indeed some would argue as this countries first suicide bomber he was a man way ahead of his time.

But enough of that, the thing is, growing up in the 70’s, Bonfire Night, Halloween and Mischievous Night made a welcome distraction from the clocks going back and the nights drawing in as we approached the darkest days of the year. We had none of these foreign variants in them days – Trick or Treat indeed. No, some of our generations fondest memories are huddled round bonfires in the back garden watching the fire flickering accompanied by Catherine Wheels, Jumping Jacks and Sparklers. We could hardly find our way to school the next day because of the lingering smoke.

For about a week around this time of year, all kids were aloud to go collectively mad. Some put clothes on bags of rags and pestered anyone in ear shot with shouts of ‘Penny for the Guy.’ Others spent their time ‘chumping’ – no piece of wood or anything else remotely flammable for that matter was safe. And of course, the most important task of all…guarding the bonfire.  We used to play mad games at school which consisted of trying to get apples out of bowls of water with our teeth. Some of the teachers blackened their teeth and put fake warts on their faces (they stopped doing it when nobody noticed the difference.)

Mischievous Night on the 4th November generally consisted of chucking eggs about and taking people’s gates of their hinges. Although there were regional variations this black and eerie night did seem something peculiar to the North.

Sadly, Mischievous Night now seems to be sat on the naughty step of our pasts. Replaced by the more corporate Halloween, yet even that, despite it’s Celtic origins seems to play second fiddle to the American trick or treat stuff. And the costumes and masks which used to be gleefully home made in our kitchens are imported from China and readily available in any pound shop in the land.

Worst of all, like grizzled old tramps drinking from brown paper bags, the bonfires in the back garden seem to be a thing of the past. Health and Safety encourages us to go to the big communal efforts, which while admittedly safer, is no replacement for huddling round the fire eating jacket ‘tatties, parkin, toffee apples and all manner of ginger and treacly type things while watching the fireworks.

So this year, as you stare wistfully into the flames at Roundhay Park and snaffle your toffee apple, spare a thought for poor old Guy Fawkes and reflect that people rather admired his gall in trying to blow up parliament and that’s why we celebrate Bonfire Night, rather than celebrating the fact his plot failed and he was caught.

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One Comment

  1. Good article that. Made me laugh and couldn’t agree more with the American trick or treat thing. But then the kids enjoy it eh? Have to say though, living round “these parts” the Eid end of Ramadan thing gets more of a look in than “our do” and the firework displays are on a mega scale.

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