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I Barely Remember November 5th

Bonfire night.

Well, I had one too many vinos for starters, and a punishing pain to my left temple on Sunday morning told me I’m too old for all this malarkey. The children had abandoned their clothes randomly, and there was a smell of smoke permeating from them. Not helping.

For those of you from outside the UK who may be wondering why I seem to have been drunkenly setting fire to my children this weekend, let me explain . . .

November 5th is a long-established date in the British calendar, a firework and effigy-burning bonanza in tribute to the memory of one Mr. Guy Fawkes who failed in an attempt to assassinate King James I in 1606 in London (still with me?). He was guarding the stash of gunpowder with which the plotters had intended to blow up the House of Lords when it all went pear-shaped. Caught, sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered (nice). Narrowly escaped the two latter procedures by throwing himself from the hangman’s scaffold and breaking his own neck.

God alone knows how this strange anti-hero has survived in our British memories for over for hundred years, let alone why we celebrate his demise in such a macabre way (make a “Guy,” stuff it, dress it in your dad’s old clothes, chuck it on the bonfire . . . nice message for the kids), but nonetheless here we are.

I grew up in 1970s suburbia. Our bonfires were small, hot, communal, and totally exciting! As kids we squealed at the prospect of the naff fireworks from the local newsagent’s shop, and burned our gloves on the too-hot jacket potatoes cooking on the embers, but even today I can smell the morning-after smoke on my hair and almost taste the sausages, black from lack of attention.

So, it’s of little surprise that, in a bid to recapture these memories with my own kids, we opt for a home-spun fire in a neighbour’s garden, rather than the city-hosted spectacular. Little boys and smoldering embers . . . seems to be a timeless and potent combination. Poking the fire with a giant stick . . . even better than the fireworks.

And I made a new discovery. Apparently it’s genetic. There is now officially a third generation of my family that just can’t stomach the obligatory toffee apple. Yuk.

So, bring on the bonfires! And would somebody please turn off the fireworks which are going off in my head?

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