‘Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!’
Did you used to chant this when you were a child? Perhaps after all the recent political shenanigans the old rhyme might have more relevance to us today than merely remembering a chap who attempted to blow up parliament nearly four hundred years ago.
However, I would suggest that the instinct to gather together around huge bonfires at the beginning of winter is much older than a few centuries – it reaches back into pre-history and fulfils an ancient calling which our ancestors practiced from the dawn of time – sympathetic magic when, fearing the lengthening dark and intensifying cold, they encouraged the warmth and light of the waning Sun to stay with us by lighting the largest fire they could muster.
Yesterday evening, I witnessed this deep subconscious call first hand as hundreds of villagers hurried along the dark lanes to the rough ground beside our football pitch for the first communal celebration of Guy Fawkes Night in several decades. Streams of cars were also arriving from further up the valley and soon there was nowhere left to park a vehicle. Shouts of recognition as friends and neighbours greeted each other and lots of excited chatter filled the dark night.
In principal, the event was organised to raise funds for the football club which supports teams of every age of youngster, male and female, as well as adults and is growing rapidly in popularity. A nominal fee was asked of each attendee at the gate; hot food, drinks and sweeties were on sale, but not overpriced. And I suspect that it was held the day before Guy Fawkes so that those who wished to could still attend larger displays held in the local towns the following day – except that we later heard that many of these annual events have been cancelled, perhaps due to lack of council funds.
My husband and I walked down with friends to the designated field which was already crowded. My son had offered to provide his medical services for free, and when someone decided to jolly the sizzling sausages along and the refreshments tent nearly caught fire as a result, he feared that he might be in for a busy evening! But other than a rogue rocket detonating horizontally and disappearing off into the bushes, (fortunately away from the crowd!), and a small child burning her finger on a hot sparkler wire, there were no casualties whatsoever.
For the gathering of young and old; the family groups, the many teenagers and even more numerous children of all ages, were without exception enthusiastic and good tempered and as everyone stood and watched the bonfire be lit and the flames slowly grow into a roaring, blazing inferno, I was wryly amused to reflect on the mesmerising effect which this powerful elemental energy still retains. Where and when else in this day and age will you find several hundred youngsters content to stand for nearly an hour to watch a pile of wood burn away?
The bonfire was still blazing when the fireworks began. Rocket after rocket hurtled into the sky and burst into blooms of coloured stars and shining petals above our heads. From the crowd came suitable “Ooooohs!” and “Aaaaahs!”. Some small children wore ear-defenders at this point… I had my fingers firmly stuck in my ears, for I have never liked loud bangs but love the beauty of the ignited, exploding gunpowder.
At last it was over. The crowd quickly dispersed. I was saddened to see some empty cans and papers cast on the ground, but on reflection, marvelled that there was actually so little after such a large number of people had stood there.
Memories of our recent segregation and isolation due to the pandemic still haunt me and it felt SO good to once more stand in the middle of a large gathering of people. Humans need humans… need each other’s company… we are sad indeed when we cannot mill together.
Altogether, it was a wonderful evening. We strolled home to eat plates of hot meat and potato pie which had been burbling happily in the cool oven of the Aga, heaped with home pickled red cabbage and sit around drinking mugs of hot tea. Hopefully this will be the start of a revival of activity in the village, a new era of communal events and interaction – the public response last night shows that there is certainly an appetite for it… and we suspect that the football club raise somewhere in the region of £5,000.
I was just a little sorry that, though, this particular occasion involved so much noise. Our timid white and black tomcat, Bandit, was discovered curled up, hiding beneath the old dresser in the living room – I’m sure that it he could have found a tin helmet to wear he would have done so!
If you are venturing out to bonfires or firework displays this evening, do take care… but have a wonderful time!