Wednesday, November 09, 2005

(Firework night reprise)...

I used to love firework night when I was a kid. The ‘club man’ dressed in gabardine mac’ and pulled down trilby would knock on the door of our house a few weeks before the big day armed with his ‘Bommy suitcase’. Forget leaflets with photos. In the suitcase was the real thing, packs of fireworks made by what we considered to be the most dangerous manufacturer of all time – ‘Brocks Fireworks’.

The smallest box was the cheapest – priced at a frugal price of one shiny English shilling. Within that box was the odd ‘Golden Rain’, a triangular ‘Mount Etna', a token Roman Candle and a few hand held fireworks that were strictly for the wussy Walters of this world. Next was a 2/6 box (12.5p) – as before with a couple of rockets, a few Catherine wheels and some Bangers. The boxes went all the way up to the gargantuan 1 quid box. Absolutely massive; the stuff of pyrotechnic dreams.

A quid box of fireworks was way out of our league. They were intended for the posh kids whose parents drove Hillman Hunters or Rover saloons, poured themselves a gee and tee when they got home from work and got the Radio Times every week.

My Mum always settled on a 5 bob box (25p) – real class, but not too ostentatious. The 5 bob box had everything, - Roman Candles, Bangers, Catherine Wheels, Versuvius’s, Air-Bombs and……. ’Rip-raps’. What a superb firework rip-raps were! Dangerous, unpredictable and full of street cred. Even lighting them was a bit of a challenge, because they bounced about a lot, in a rip-rappy sort of way. They looked like a snake folded back and forth, back and forth. The more you paid, the longer they were. And the longer they were, the more bangs and jumps you got.

Young rapscallions would throw them at people’s feet. Each time they banged, they would bounce – and a long one would bounce perhaps 20 times. What fun, what joy. They used to drop into chaps turn-ups or ladies knee length boots. Third degree burns were all so innocent then….. Eventually, like all instruments of torture, they were banned……

Also within the box would be a packet of ‘Bengal Matches’. Now these were really, really dangerous. They were like a big match with a black head, which was about an inch long. When you struck the match they would burn so brightly it would light up a star system. Napalm on a little stick they were. They burned in different colours – and all at the heat of the inner core of the Sun. They got banned as well.

Once the deal was done – and we’d agreed to pay the clubman a shilling a week for 5 weeks plus sixpence deposit, the fireworks were ours – all 5 bobs worth of them.

As a special after sales treat, the clubman would give us a box of indoor fireworks. These were deemed to be not as dangerous as the outdoor versions, but you still lit them with matches. Smoke still spewed from little ‘Mount Etna’s’. Kids still got burnt, houses still got burnt down. They got banned as well.

Come to think of it, so did the Bangers…….
Best explanation I heard over the weekend for exactly why the Gunpowder Plot was timed for the 5th of November…..

Well, apparently the plotters decided on that date so anyone seeing them lumping gunpowder, matches and firewood about would think they were going to just another fireworks party.
...the fifth of November.
And talking about Gunpowder plotting…..
There’s been a plethora of drama documentaries over the past week about how the plotters were persuaded to give up their secrets and how they eventually met their collective ends….

Guy Fawkes suffered the most of course – having been tortured on the rack, gouged with gougy things, stabbed with stabby things and having to wear the same underwear for more than a week.

On the day of his execution, he was helped up the scaffold steps because his legs had been smashed through the torture. He was then hung by the neck until he was almost dead. They cut him down, chucked water over his face to revive him and make sure he was still in the land of the living. They then cut off his goolies & knob and chucked them on the fire before his very eyes….. were gouged out and they too were chucked on the hot coals. The barbecue was made complete, courtesy of a full set of Fawkes’ guts and entrails.

Remember, Fawkes is still alive at this point, the disemboweller having taken great care not to injure the lungs or heart. The final act of barbarity was to chop his head off and stick it on a spike. His body was hacked into four quarters and despatched to the outer reaches of the kingdom….

Not much chance of parole there then.