When I was a child the 4th November was always ‘Mischievous Night’. In the small Derbyshire village where I grew up this usually meant little more than a few practical jokes played on neighbours in the early evening after school. My best friend and I would meet up with a few others and we would dare each other to knock on doors and run away. This entailed opening gates and going up drives to front doors which if you had to run away quickly gave you less time than if the front doors had been nearer the road. There was one particular house that had a rather decorative front garden made up of little paths and the big ‘dare’ was to run around the little paths without getting caught. This was rather more nerve-wracking that the “scrumping” for apples that had gone on a few weeks before in the orchard of ‘the big house’. Of course the boys always did more than we girls; taking garden gates off their hinges or sending a treasured garden gnome on a little trip somewhere further down the road.
Come Bonfire Night (which was always on 5th November and not spread over weeks like it is today) we had the pleasure of excitedly gathering around the bonfire on my friend’s dad’s allotment. We had a few fireworks each which we all brought along to share; things like Roman candles, Catherine wheels and rockets plus the occasional jumping jack and banger. It was the bonfire, though, that was the draw – it kept you warm, it cooked your baked potato wrapped in foil, it lit up the night sky and we all used to run around in scarves and mittens, clutching our sparklers whilst sucking on home-made bonfire toffee before heading home tired, happy and smelling of wood smoke.
All this may seem rather mundane and innocent in these days of ‘Trick or Treat”, two months of fireworks and Christmas in the shops at the end of August. Where has the respect for anniversaries and seasons gone? The simple pleasure of celebrating them chronologically and eating foods seasonally seems to have disappeared, it would seem today that if your life isn’t “extreme” or “awesome” then you are seen as a “loser” and that is a shame because the simple magic and innocent enjoyment has gone and will never return.