Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bye guy

Off to the fireworks today at Hackney's Victoria Park. Funfair included. It's the last display left in our part of London. There used to be Bonfire Night celebrations at Primrose Hill and Highbury Fields, the former the most picturesque the second the most local. The cost of health and safety was blamed for their demise. But I suspect it was more just cost full-stop. Great portmanteau excuse H&S.

I'm sure that when I was a child as well as the official bonfires there were also a great many unofficial ones burning household bric-a-brac and rubbish, on scraps of waste ground, and, if I remember rightly, in the odd Valleys side street (Why didn't the tarmac melt? Were they in braziers? The streets can't have been cobbled surely, it was already the 1970s...)

There's another change, noted elsewhere, and that's the switch in emphasis from Bonfire Night to Halloween. Some of my earliest memories are of collecting a Penny for the Guy. Now children legitimise begging by going door-to-door in fancy dress wishing people 'Happy Halloween'. Still good fun and certainly an improvement on the mysteriously superseded 'Trick or Treat' with its flour, eggs, mud, water, etc. which itself only arrived on our shores in the 1970s.

All down to the influence of American popular culture on children's entertainment. But the difficulty of explaining the whole Bonfire Night thing can't have helped. Complicated: it's to celebrate the survival and continuance of government by the Crown in Parliament, children. Or complicated and vindictive: it's to celebrate our sticking it to the Catholics. Or complicated, vindictive and gruesome: the guy represents a terrorist bomber who we tortured, executed and now burn in effigy. Compared to seasonal, scary fancy dress - as seen on Dora the Explorer - not a great sell.

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And another thing... just remembered go-carts: we used to build them using scrap, such as old pram wheels and orange boxes, then use them to push the guy around. I suspect they ended up as bonfire fuel, a burning chariot to speed old guy on his way. Having fun was harder work in those days.

4 comments:

Kevin Musgrove said...

And burning the other gang's go-cart on their bonfire a few days before Bonfire Night...

Gaw said...

Gangs, a whole new subject. The word's connotation seems a bit less innocent now, somehow!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah, memories. I also built a go-cart from scrap and should have realised then and there that I had no calling as an engineer (but unfortunately I didn't). And making "genies" by pouring out the contents of bangers into a larger container - try telling that to H&S. But 'Trick or Treat' is always seemed a scarier idea than Halloween itself, I'm glad it's been superseded.

Gaw said...

I didn't realise you were an engineer, Gadj. Your bow is sumptuously well strung. I wonder, do they celebrate Halloween in Transylvania, or is it all a little close to the bone?