Posted in Events, Personal life

Of Jealous Guys and Ambitious Bonfires

(This is my November column for the Hawkesbury Parish News, published just before the annual village Bonfire Night celebrations)

Cover of the Ladybird book entitled James I and the Gunpowder Plot
All you need to know about Guy Fawkes in child-friendly detail (image: Amazon UK)

I’m old enough to remember not only the time when “Penny for the Guy” was a common cry at this time of year, but when a penny would be enough to buy something.

You could get four fruit salad sweets or a chocolate mouse for a penny. Or for just a few pennies, you could buy the cheapest fireworks from our local Post Office. My favourite was a box of coloured matches, while naughty boys preferred bangers or jumping jacks. Children were allowed to buy them, and we did. These days we may complain that health and safety regulations have gone mad, but looking back, you can see why we needed to invent them.

My favourite childhood memory of Fireworks Night was our family party. Raised in London suburbia, I was lucky enough to live in a house on the corner of the street, with a wrap-around garden big enough to host a decent bonfire without torching either the guests or the neighbours. That’s something you couldn’t do in most modern estate houses.

Each year our guy got sent on his way atop a pile of crumpled newspaper and sticks. In that simpler age, it didn’t occur to us to build a bonfire shaped like anything other than a bonfire.

Not so now we live in Hawkesbury, where the village bonfire is always a spectacular structure: Tower Bridge last year, complete with London bus. What shape will this year’s be? Whatever it is, if the old guys we used to make could see it, they’d be flabbergasted. Some guys have all the luck, they might say.

Picture of giant model of train in bonfire
The answer: Hawkesbury’s 2016 Bonfire Night set fire to the Hogwarts Express (Check out the two people standing to the left of the picture for an idea of the giant scale of the train!) Photo by Andy Musty
Posted in Personal life, Reading

Struggling with my Inner Optimist at the EU Referendum Result

A rare political post from a usually apolitical, optimistic writer

As I type this post with a heavy heart, I’m bleary eyed after staying awake till 3.30am, repeatedly hitting “refresh” on the BBC News Referendum Results page in the hope that somehow if only I did it enough times, the split in votes would change to favour the “Remain” camp.

Photo of Westonbirt School
The school, not the bookshop (though that’s very lovely too in a different way)

Waking before 6am to discover that no, this hadn’t all been a bad dream, I then had the useful distraction of having to set off for Westonbirt School, where I’d been invited as an independent  witness for a Guinness Book of World Records attempt at the World’s Biggest Reading Lesson. The other independent witness was Hereward Corbett, proprietor of the nearby Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury. Continue reading “Struggling with my Inner Optimist at the EU Referendum Result”