Bonfire Night

‘I know, let’s nail a small incendiary device to the fence, just underneath next door’s overhanging tree. What could go wrong?’

That’s why responsible citizens go to organised public firework displays. We could have done that. Indeed, I often feel something amounting to a duty to do these things, just to prove to the world that we can, to claim our right to join in like ‘ordinary’ families. But we didn’t.

Call us miserable party-poopers, but queueing for the privilege of paying twenty-odd quid to be admitted to a muddy field, to stand around for an hour or so, hustled by bigger or more pushy people, unable to get even so much as a smell of the bonfire waiting for twenty minutes worth of fireworks to start, somehow didn’t hold much appeal. Perhaps it was the strange Yorkshire lurgy* we picked up in Sheffield over half term, but not even the prospect of a damp, droopy hotdog clenched in a stale bun could tempt us. 

So, while Freddie was enjoying his usual Saturday visit to his grandparents, we hatched our anarchic plan. We’d spend the entrance fee on a box of fireworks from the supermarket, and a little bag of fuel for the chiminea, and have our own mini-bonfire in the back garden. With proper butchers’ sausages to eat. 

How irresponsible of us. But then, everyone knows we must be irresponsible people, or we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in (Irony Alert 🚨. For more about societal attitudes towards those who choose not to test or terminate, see

I had the ear defenders at the ready, and Daddy carefully arranged everything so it it could be seen from the French doors, so if Freddie didn’t like the noise we could hustle him inside where the noise would be further muffled by the double glazing. The grandparents were invited to join us, and chairs arranged round our chiminea ‘bonfire’. Daddy and his trusty ‘one million candle power’ torch were banished to the bottom of the garden with the fireworks, all properly supported to prevent them flying off sideways

The fireworks were great – most were of the ‘fountain’ type, there was lots of fizzing and whooshing, but few loud bangs; and the burned low to the ground which meant Freddie could see them easily. After each one he shouted ‘that one again, Daddy!’

We were done and dusted by 7 o’clock, just in time for a nice, warm bath before bed. As his grandparents were leaving, Freddie said: ‘I enjoyed the fireworks’ very clearly. I think that made the night for them. 

Later on, I was snuggled up in Freddie’s bed with him, reading a story when we heard more fireworks in the distance. He jumped up and stuck his head through the curtains. ‘Wow, look…’

Kneeling on the bed, with the warmth of the radiator floating up,  we watched as the black sky was sprinkled again and again with multicoloured plumes of light from a municipal display in the distance. I’d had a lovely evening with my family. I was cosy and safe, and I was with my child. The outside world, the past and the future were far away. It was a moment of perfect contentment. 

*Yorkshire lurgy – I am reliably informed by Daddy’s Yorkshire relatives that this is God’s way of punishing unbelievers. Not that we don’t believe in God, we just don’t believe Yorkshire is God’s own country. That’s Staffordshire. It explains why we’ve got oatcakes and no one else has (Scottish so-called ‘oatcakes’ are just depressed biscuits).


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