Pyrotechnic manoeuvres

Tonight, I’m going to stare into a fiery pits of a diabolically massive bonfire and get neck-ache going “oooh” and “ahhh” at some wondrous good rockets and other fireworks.


Bonfire night is one of those occasions I hate to miss. Not because I like noise – though I don’t mind it – but because of the connection with real fabulous, leaping fire, which you don’t see much these days unless you’re an ardent fire-engine follower – and the chance of seeing fireworks that are even more spectacular than last year’s.


It’s a kind of pilgrimage, converging on Speech House, the heart of the Forest of Dean and following scores of dark figures trudging over collapsing soaked ferns, fallen autumn leaves and squelchy pasture towards the smoky red glow of the inferno across the field.


People of all ages turn up, including some very young babies which always puzzles me because unless they are totally deaf they are likely to be a bit terrified.


DT man isn’t overly fond of fireworks but he would quite happily take charge of a selection of bangers or personally ignite a selection of feck-off huge rockets – the sort they bury in the ground and make your feet shudder as they shoot off into the sky.


Me? I like colour, design, spectacle. Roman candles, catherine wheels, and fantastic rockets. When I was small the Jackie Jumpers you got in the small boxes of Standard fireworks were fun. They only made very small bangs and you could squeal and panic a bit if they jumped randomly near your feet knowing all the time they they couldn’t do much harm.


My mother used to talk about how, when they were both aged 10 – 13 in the 1930’s, my two uncles used to be able to buy dozens of bangers very cheaply, stuff their pockets, then go up the wood and chuck them at each other.


Turns out DT man did exactly the same in the 60’s when he was that age – fireworks still being freely available in the shops.


“But Roman candles and Catherine wheels and more interesting fireworks were available then, surely…?”


“Oh yes. But we only ever bought bangers and lobbed them at people across the street. That was the thing to do. We all thought it was hilarious.”


Son no2 wasn’t aware of this history but proved to be a chip off the old block. He returned from a school skiing holiday in the French alps with a full and heavy rucksack.


“Ooooh what have you brought back?” I cooed expectantly, thinking delicately painted Alpine ceramic, maybe? Delicately perfumed Alpine chocolates? Collection of Alpine mugs? Alpine pen and pencil set peut etre?”


He tipped the contents out on the kitchen floor. Dozens of black, powdery fireworks. All bangers, purchased from shop in the ski resort.


“Oh for God’s sake!” was my reaction. “You brought this lot home in the coach, through customs?”


He was unrepentant. “Some of my friends bought knives in the knife shop but I didn’t.”




“You even try setting these off in the back garden and you’ll get us all kettled by the police and carted off as terrorists,” I warned him.


“But why can’t I use them? I spent all my money on them.”


We decided he should either put them straight in the bin or take them down to his mate’s house in an isolated spot in the Forest of Dean, play commandoes and set them off there. People are always shooting stuff in the Forest so a few more explosions wouldn’t be out of place.


A week later there was a sensation at school. Persons unknown had blown up a school litterbin using fireworks. No-one was injured by shrapnel. The headmaster was making enquiries. Ahem.


DT man displayed his usual laissez-faire attitude


“Big fuss over nothing. Perfectly normal boy behaviour.”


Just as well, perhaps, that the audience at the display tonight will include children and women like me who like pretty colours.


Left to the chaps, I suspect it could turn into a family-friendly version of anti-tank weapon testing on Salisbury Plain.





About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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8 Responses to Pyrotechnic manoeuvres

  1. valzone says:

    When I’m stood at the bonfire tonight, watching the fireworks, listening to the crackling wood, and breathing in that wonderful bonfire aroma, I shall think of you Jan. Great piece this.

  2. Darrel Kirby says:

    Missing out on bonfire night this year due mainly to bad planning. I like mid-sized affairs where you can actually get up close to the fire but they still have a decent firework display – last few years been to one in Shurdington which has the added advantage of having a bar. Was hoping to go to the Docks this year but accidentally double booked 😦

    • janh1 says:

      The one at the Crippets? Yup I’ve been to that one at Shurdie. It was good. I seem to remember they had cider and there were lots of burly firemen supervising the fire…… second thoughts, maybe thast was a dream.

      Hard luck on the double booking. Enjoy your other engagement anyway 🙂

      If you’ve never been to the Speech House thing it’s worth a go. You get pretty close to the fire – any closer and people would start cooking. The heat is intense!

  3. I haven’t been to a bonfire party for a while. Fireworks lit by people, who may have had a drink, frighten me. I might manage to handle a sparkler but would run away from lighting anything else.

    • janh1 says:

      🙂 oh I have never lit a firework in my life!! God forbid. It’s hard enough for me to light the candle in the storm lantern which stands in middle of the dining table. I end up dropping the match and yelping because the flame’s leaping up towards my finger!

      This “do” is a big charity public thing – all proceeds towards the Lions club.

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    Brilliant read!
    As an ex MFL teacher in big comprehensives, one of my tasks when returning from trips to France was to frighten the hell out of kids about the consquences of being caught with knives and bangers at customs. The Channel must be full of them.
    However, my most law-abiding cousin quite innocently purchased flick knives in Austria last year as presents for her grandsons.

  5. janh1 says:

    Tee hee Isobel, now if you’d have been no2 son’s teacher you’d have scared the living be-jeezis out of him and he might have brought me back something nice!

    What a wonderful story, granny bringing back flick-knives…”so convenient for the pocket, my dears. You don’t damage your trousers but in a trice you can be ready to whittle some sticks…!”

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