Comment: Seasonal celebrations are not what I remember

Why do bonfires have to last a week, asks Sarah Todd.
Why do bonfires have to last a week, asks Sarah Todd.
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WE’VE had a few days holiday and it was wonderful to have a break from the monotony of “what’s for tea?”

Mind you, there was about a week’s worth of work before we went to Edinburgh; mucking out both the house and mess outside.

There’s no wonder some farmers never go on holiday because of the colossal amount of jobs that need doing to leave everything ship-shape for whoever’s left in charge.

The children hadn’t missed us at all; saying they’d had some much better meals while my mother was head of catering.

We were pretty much straight off for Bonfire Night on our return. We go to a spectacular display at the home where their great grandmother lives. These gatherings down at the bottom of gardens and in farmers’ fields are getting rarer with the passing of each year.

Informal community efforts of everybody bringing along a few fireworks and a bit of food seem to be falling foul of the dreaded health and safety worries.

Bonfire Night was always one of the highlights of the year when we were children. The whole excitement of making a Guy, putting it in a wheelbarrow and going around the village collecting money for fireworks. People turning up to drop off bits of wood, old sofas and such-like. Note to self: what a great idea to get rid of our ancient seating arrangements.

There does seem to be a move towards more formal, commercially-led gatherings that - this is a real hobby horse - aren’t even on November 5, making life more difficult for dog and horse owners for more than a week, rather than getting it all over and done with on the proper night.

All this reminiscing about the glory days of 1970s and 80s bonfires - rockets in milk bottles and Catherine wheels nailed to fences - belies the fun we also had on November 4; Mischief Night.

Moving the village bench from one side of the road to the other, wrapping the telephone box with toilet paper, knocking-and-running on doors. Our children were horrified at all this. “You never did?”... “Didn’t you get into trouble?” It was somehow all very innocent and certainly not an American money-making thing like awful Halloween.

We have loads of hedge cuttings (plus that 17 year-old sofa) to burn. You-know-who got into trouble for hacking them back before there’d been time to collect the sloes. The job hadn’t been done - not because of laziness - but because it had always been said they were better for gin making after a frost. We’ve not had a frost yet.

Talking of burning branches, it was interesting to read, while up in Scotland, about a record number of horses that have died after eating sycamore seeds and leaves.

Apparently there was an extraordinarily large crop of the distinctive helicopter-like seeds last autumn, which has meant a record number of young plants. Eating them causes ‘equine atypical myopathy’, which weakens horses’ muscles leaving them unable to breathe.

Trees, birds, insects... it seems so long since the school nature table taught us about them. Keeping to curriculums and climbing league tables seem to have usurped teaching our children basic nature spotting. How many youngsters could identify a sycamore from, say, a Scots pine? Oh, to be back on holiday...