Last night, hearing fireworks being set off round the village, LT and I started to talk about various bonfire parties, whether organised ones or the back garden sort, that we’d been to over the years. He has blogged about long-ago ones in the past (link at the bottom) and I certainly have about family ones here, when they happened. Tim reminded me that we had a family party here three years ago.
Bonfire Night was never taken much notice of when I was a child, in fact. I gather that Wink, as a very small child, was chased round the kitchen garden by a Catherine Wheel that hadn’t been fasted properly to its post and my parents were put off completely: too risky. So it wasn’t until I had my own children that we did anything about it. The Sage’s father was born on 5th November – and known as Guy, which is quite odd when you think about what happens to the guy on the bonfire – so there was always a bit of a celebration here.
The firework parties that my parents held were grown-up ones and they took place in the summer. As you know from previous posts, our house Seaview was by Oulton Broad, opposite the park. The broads are the man-made lakes (made thousands of years ago) that link the rivers of Norfolk and, in this case, North Suffolk. In August, a sailing regatta is held every year, the small yacht club being at the edge of the park next to the marina. As well as all the yacht races and so on that took place on the water, there were all sorts of attractions in the park; stalls, funfair and so on and there were various evening entertainments, though I don’t know what, as we never went to them. My parents weren’t very interested in unsophisticated sorts of jollities and it never occurred to me to mind. I’m sure, if ever I’d asked, I’d have been taken along, though probably not by either of them.
Anyway, it ended over August Bank Holiday. This used to take place over the first weekend in August but changed, in the 1960s, to the last weekend. So whether the regatta changed then too or whether it had always been later in the month, I’m not sure. It was the end of the main holiday season and finished with a celebration – two of them, in fact, because for a time, there were two firework displays, on the Thursday and then – a bigger one – on the Sunday.
As our very wide garden with its Broads frontage was right opposite the park, it was an ideal place to set up the firework display. It was also a perfect opportunity for a party with built-in entertainment. Never any children of my age there – my parents’ friends were mostly my fathers’ age and, as he was over forty when I was born, they all had older children and it really wasn’t a kids’ do. But the fireworks were fantastic.
I can’t remember the name of the company, though it was the best known one at the time, but the chief firework technician’s name was Fred Faithfull and he became a friend. He and my parents exchanged Christmas cards for years and kept up with each others’ family news. Watching, from the house (we children weren’t allowed anywhere near), the displays being set up was fascinating for a curious child. There were two sets of poles with lines between, one being for the vertical strings of golden lights that I remember as Golden Rain, but surely not? The other had the set piece that ended the evening. On Thursday, it was simply Goodnight in fireworks but on the Monday, it was God Save The Queen. And as those fireworks burned down, we heard the roar of applause from the crowd on the far bank.
The fun was more than the fair and the fireworks, there were lots of boats on the water, all lit up. On Monday, there was the famous Burning of the Golden Galleon. I was told solemnly that the authorities went along the river checking for the most unkempt boat, which was commandeered and set fire to and I always worried that our old launch would be chosen. Of course, it was really a raft piled with scrap wood. It did look spectacular. It must have been secured between two boats so that it didn’t drift to somewhere it shouldn’t go, but that didn’t occur to us at the time.
They were great parties. I was more comfortable than many children of my age with grown-ups and was, in any case, quite happy to potter around handing out food and hanging out with the dogs. We went upstairs to watch the fireworks themselves, for the best view.