WAS it really forty years ago or more that we stopped seeing children pushing around an effigy dressed in Dad’s old trousers and jumper stuffed with newspapers and straw calling out ‘Penny for the guy’?
No one ever gave a penny and expected receipt of the guy. Long before Trick or Treat children would hope that the people answering the door to gaze down on their wonderful creations would offer a toffee apple or at worse some liquorice all-sorts.
Children could be seen in the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night gathering wood, cardboard boxes, tyres and anything for that matter, which littered the embankments or the back garden.
Bangers were the choice of firework for the mischievous. Sure to get a reaction, a box of matches smuggled from someone’s Grandad’s tobacco drawer and the return of the beefiest oldest looking youth from the market with bangers to distribute to those who coughed up a tanner.
The excitement was too much for some and rather than wait for darkness or even the 5th of November they would be let off. There was something daring about lighting that fuse and holding an explosive before lobbing it in the direction of someone’s front garden and waiting for the response.
The guy meanwhile usually becoming more and more dishevelled with the inclement weather with leg or arm falling off was a thing of pride to be pushed around in someone’s old pram.
The bonfire was often fiercely guarded from rival neighbouring boys and girls who we believed would sneak up and set it alight in an act of sabotage. It rarely happened.
Toffee apples were the best. Many Mums would make the home made mixture and inevitably coat apples, which had come from some local orchard. Those same apples were used for ‘bobbing’ a great game where children stuck their heads in bowls of water trying to fish the apple out with their teeth.
Imagine it. There we all were celebrating with glee the life of a man who’s only wish was to blow up Parliament. The figure of Guy Fawkes has now become synonymous with the ‘Anonymous’ movement and anarchy.
Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder treason and plot.
We had only just got over Halloween and the carving of our turnips. Delightfully rock hard purple coated vegetables usually pilfered from a farmer’s field. Top chopped off, insides eaten raw and a piece of string to hold the basic carved swede, which held a candle for illumination. No sweets, no trick or treating, just a cursory nod to each other’s swedes.
So here we are in 2018 and far from those days when children made do with a couple of bangers, a rocket, a Catherine wheel and if you were lucky a couple of Jacky jumpers. The commercialism today is overwhelming. The average home has enough fireworks on display to have kept a whole neighbourhood of children happy in the 1970’s. Health and safety was not overtly evident back then as youths hauled canisters of petrol to get the bonfire going while carrying said bangers in their pockets.
As much as we might bemoan the loss of those halcyon days of our youth there is little doubt that there is much more on offer for todays children and that ain’t such a bad thing. Those same age old rules apply though.
Be careful, be considerate, don’t mess with fireworks, keep all pets indoors and check those bonfires before they are lit. You never know what has crawled in there. As for the guy, there are still a few doing the rounds and their doom is inevitably the same as it was for old Guy Fawkes back in the day. A certain death for treason and the preservation of one of the oldest political institutions in the world.