I remember my Uncle Pat and Michael telling me that November was the best month to look out for stars in the night sky. They told me tales of Orion the Hunter while pointing out his triple starred belt, which is sometimes called the three kings or the three sisters.
My November recollections are of smoky Bonfire Nights, when the excitement and anticipation began to build for a couple of weeks beforehand; continuing right up until the big night itself. The bonfire stack on the waste land behind Albert Road and Alexandra Street got bigger and more bountiful as each day passed; sporting old chairs, bedsteads, dressing table legs and scraggy mattresses all piled skywards.
Alongside this memory lies one of the pungent smell of charred jacket potatoes, and the amazing aroma of homemade ham broth, steaming in cups – still too hot to drink – ready for a dunking from a large Forster’s white bread bun; which lasted just long enough to soak up the remains at the bottom and sides of the cup, encapsulating the last drops of deliciousness.
I recollect the sticky sweetness of gingerbread, cooked with golden syrup, black treacle, and muscovado brown sugar; so rich that it stuck to the roof of your mouth and clung on to your front teeth. Chewy, crimson glazed toffee apples appeared just before bedtime, and became the treat of the night as the firework display was underway.
I reflect on the sparklers, hand held at arms length, dancing in the darkness for only a few seconds before expiring into black sooty discarded sticks.
By far the most spectacular sight of Guy Fawkes night in my minds eye, is the roar and spectacle as the bonfire is lit and takes hold, cascading it’s heat to those gathered around, wrapped up snugly in coats, hats, scarves and gloves. I can still feel the stinging warmth on my face, and the fuggy tickle in my nostrils.
One of the lads who lived a couple of streets away had made a ‘super bogie’ from old pram wheels and wooden planks, he said he’d obtained from a secret supplier. It was a fine specimen and the large ‘Silver Cross’ tyres at the back complimented the sturdy frame. He showed it off one Bonfire Night, early evening, treating the little kids to a backer down the hill at Berry Edge Road. I’d already had my go and had scraped knees and a spelk in my thumb to prove it, so I made my way back to the gathering around the fire.
The sky was ablaze with colour as rogue sparks and flitting flames leapt into the darkened night sky. Yet behind all this the stars still glistened and while I pointed out my favourite three bright ones to my friends; Bogie Lad hurtled the corner doing a lap of honour round the bonfire with all the young kids cheering him on. He nodded a huge grin to the crowd, but his adoration didn’t last long, as his Grandma – who was extremely tall for a Nana – earlifted him into the house. We all felt sorry for him as he missed the the end of the night, as the ash filled, gently glowing fire, sunk slowly in to sleep and we walked leisurely home to a final cup of Ovaltine.
The next day word got round that his prize possession had been dismantled, and only the pram wheels were left sulking in a lonely spot in the backyard. Once again he was milking the limelight as we all shared his misfortune after school.
By teatime though, his Grandma put the record straight, telling all the neighbours the day had run away with her and she’d got nothing done, as she had to get a man in to relay the floorboards in the corner the back bedroom!