• Rob Butterfield


Lighting up the sky with Standard fireworks!

If I’m honest, November the 5th these days is a bit of a non-event for me. Our kids are both grown up and there seems very little point in looking up to the sky among the heaving throngs at organised events to politely ooh and ahh as carefully choreographed rockets explode in a shimmering blast of vibrant colours. I don’t wish to put a damper on anyone else’s enjoyment of these events and I appreciate that for some the celebration of Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt in blowing the Houses of Parliament to smithereens is indeed an annual event not to be missed (in light of current political events, I kinda wish he’d return for another try!). For me, Guy Fawkes night these days is little more than an inconvenience that scares the living bejeezus out of our ageing cat.

And whatever happened to the good old ‘penny for the guy‘? You see very little of it these days and I swear the last one I saw was some kids younger brother being shoved around in a pushchair wearing a naff plastic mask! Where’s the creativity and ingenuity in that? Making the guy was always a major event as a kid, as was pushing it around the neighbourhood raising money to put towards fireworks. Seems to me that these young ragamuffins were after scoring a few quick quid to spend on fags and sweets! And I’m sure that giving them a penny would have been met with some disdain – surely a ‘quid’ is the minimum accepted booty these days?

You see, back in the day, in my street, November 5th was a big deal. Community spirit was top of the agenda and many families would collaborate in a neighbourly affair over in the ‘back field’. For what seemed at the time like weeks in advance we’d all collectively build the biggest bonfire we could with any available junk in readiness for the big night. There were no health and safety issues to get in the way of this group of families getting together and enjoying a thoroughly splendid evening of firework fun. The Dad’s would be in charge of the fireworks (and the fire) and the Mum’s would put together a veritable feast of bacon rolls, hot dogs and jacket potatoes. It seemed all so simple to organise and as far as I can remember there were never any accidents or injuries – basically common sense prevailed.

Light up the sky with Standard Fireworks’ was the catchy ad theme back then (and for many years to follow I believe). The fireworks were, by all accounts, pretty ‘standard’ but the joy in opening that box and seeing the assembled rockets, Catherine wheels, jumping jacks, snow fountains and bangers was something memories are made of. And of course, the sparklers; all the kids would be allowed them (providing they wore gloves) giving them almost minutes of endless fun.

I do remember one year someone setting fire to our tinder dry bonfire a few days before the event much to the disappointment of everyone. But we were not to be defeated - the lovely chaps at Whitbread who’s brewery backed onto the field delivered us a load of wooden pallets and within a day or two a new bonfire was erected on top of the charred remains of our earlier attempt. Community spirit at it’s very best!

As youngsters though, for some us at least, boredom would set in about half way through the evening’s events and we’d all head off with our torches in search of spent fireworks… why? I have no idea, but it seemed like fun at the time.

What was it though that made those events so special, or at least special as I remember them? Perhaps we were all easily entertained back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We only had three channels on mostly black and white TV’s remember. Not everyone had a car either so doing things as part of a neighbourhood community was an important part of our lives.

But the big question I guess is how did we ever manage to organise something like that without the use of social media and mobile phones? You know what, we just used to talk to each other and maybe it was that simple human interaction that made these things so special.

I often hanker for the spirit and reward of the ‘good old days’ but times move on and so must we. But it’s always good to reminisce eh?

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