Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Bonfire # 1

Guy Fawkes night approaches and preparations are being made  to build a modest bonfire in the Tavern's extensive and stunningly beautiful grounds. The foreigners are agog with wonder as to why these strange English people want to celebrate an attack on the English Parliament with a bonfire at all, but they look at the opportunity for roasting marshmallows around a big outdoor fire anyway.

It will be a modest construction - for destruction - as here in this magical Isle, British traditions are suppressed, just like the Catholics of old. It isn't as though Guy Fawkes was gay. Or Bi. Or Trans even. He was just a regular Guy. And back in my younger day he was as fine an excuse for community fun (we didn't call it community back then: it was neighbourhood), as one could need.

Things have changed a bit since then.

The neighbourhood bonfire was a 'big thing' and almost entirely a Kid's thing.  Kids built the bonfire: dads did the fireworks.  The dads used a light hand in their supervision.

My home was on the edge of the city, with fields behind as far as the eye could see. The field immediately behind my home was where the neighbourhood bonfire always was, every year since my modern time began.

The 'big kids' were in charge. 14 y/o upward. The little kids followed along being allocated jobs depending on assessed maturity. One was promoted by age and size. Do an allotted task well and competence was hailed. Boys and girls treated the same. It was 'hierarchical'. It was where leadership, teamwork and cooperation was learned. 

First there was the frame to build. That meant trees. We were more of a country mob than the kids further in the city.

For months before, troops of kids would walk across fields to the 'Woods' and select, chop down and transport Birch trees. Long, slender trunks, unencumbered by low branches of any problem size. 

Often these were carried and dragged several miles, along the edges of the fields so as not to damage crops.

The bonfire frame needed at least six trees, which over the years it took for me to go from little kid to big kid forager leader became ten to fifteen trees. The diameter would get to twenty to 30 odd feet at the base.  

Other kids would have 'primed' the neighbours to hoard and contribute rubbish, boxes, cardboard, newspaper, old furniture etc for collection by gangs of kids nearer the day.  

Old bombed out houses (of which there were many, still, after a decade), were  scavenged and 'looted' for wood, old but salvageable (for such bonfire purpose) burned bits of door, frames and kitchen wreckage. Garden refuse would be brought along by dads with trailers from quite far away. Several streets away. October was 'clear out' month.

By the day, it bonfire was huge. Full, tight, with 'stuff'. 

Someone  or a small mob would have made a Guy from old sacks stuffed with straw.  

Perhaps an old suit would be contributed.  

Trooped around the strees in a cart, we would raise money for fireworks. 

'Penny for the Guy'. It was advertising and fund raising of the day. 

The Guy effigy would be hauled by ropes to the top. We would be ready for night to fall and folk to gather.

The fire - dads and big kids lit it - would leap into the night. Fireworks would fill the sky. 100, 200 or more people in family groups would picnic, sing, enjoy good company. There would be tales told to the little ones of Guy Fawkes and his attempts to blow up Parliament. 

Most felt some sympathy ! 

As I said, things have changed.  

Someone told of what is happening in England today.
British Village Prepares to Burn 36-Foot Effigy of Harvey Weinstein
As final preparations for the British celebrations of November 5th come to a close, a 36 foot grotesque of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been unveiled in one village — ready to be set alight and burnt to the ground.
Outrageous ! He is not even a friggin' Englishman !!
The village of Edenbridge, South East England has been building large effigies of people in the public eye and burning them on November 5th for over 20 years, a local part of national celebrations that commemorate the failed plot by Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I with it. 
Traditionally British bonfire displays have burnt effigies of gunpoweder plotter Guy Fawkes, who was executed after the plan was foiled.
Edenbridge’s effigy this year shows Weinstein standing with his dressing gown flapping open, holding an Oscar award and with his genitals covered by nothing more than a “final cut” clapper board and golden star held in place by a woman’s hand.
Thousands of people are expected to turn out to see Harvey Weinstein stuffed with fireworks and then exploded on Saturday.
Why? Just what has got into these people? They have a perfectly fine rationale and tradition but it seems not 'modern' enough. 

They even have a Committee !! 


Where are the kids? 
In 2016, the bonfire committee of Edenbridge selected then U.S presidential candidate Donald Trump for their annual display. Seen wearing an American flag tie, Mr Trump cradled in his arm the decapitated head of rival Hillary Clinton.
The target for each year’s display is chosen by a vote, as bonfire committee member Jeni Fox explained: “We were spoilt for choice in terms of potential contenders with a shortlist of around 10 potential runners but the people’s choice stole the vote.
Spoiled for choice? Are you deranged, woman? There is ONE to choose from. Guy Fawkes. 

Perhaps Jeni Fox will volunteer for the starring role in 2018
“We are literally helping Trump to live out his own catchphrase ‘burn it down’ by exploding the 11m effigy as the opening act for our fireworks display. It only seemed fair that Hillary Clinton took some of the limelight, and we are sure the presidential candidates will be pleased to see they are both featured.”
Wassamadder wiv youse people ?  
While Edenbridge has one bonfire committee, some English towns like Lewes in Sussex have dozens of groups creating competing models to be burnt on November 5th.
Yes. Neighbourhoods. But please, no 'committees'. Let the kids learn to lead, cooperate, share the tasks out, do the work, develop teamwork skills, have the FUN.  

The 'light hand' supervision from behind has been forgotten. It is now adult driven.

It is not just here in Tasmania that Traditions are suppressed, overtaken, marmalised and destroyed.

But I have several folk who will tell of the tradition tomorrow.

Now, though, I need a drink.

Care for one yourself?



  1. We lived between the primary School and the Freeway, there being a vacant block between us and the freeway on which the bonfire pile grew over the year.

    As this time of year approached, the whole community knew exactly where to bring their flammable junk.

    As if by magic an effigy would appear at the top right at the best time, sitting atop the pyre in a chair, or on an old bike.

    I remember one year my grandfather dug out some crackers from the shed.
    Bigger than penny bungers, dunno what they were.

    That was the same year that somebody lit the Tom Thumbs in Bruce's back pocket and he ended up in hospital.

    Happy Days

    1. Hahahaha. I think that almost everyone has had such happy memories just waiting for someone to light the blue touch paper of recall. Have a drink, sir.

    2. Thankyou and cheers to all...

      ...try some of my homemade whiskey :-)

  2. Still many fireworks here, they’ve been going off for three nights now ... but expensive these days.

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Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..