Burning the Guy . . . in private

When I were a lad . . . there was a stonking great bonfire on the Common near our house. Each November 5, the local Scouts would pile up the wood, toss on a Guy, and light the thing while we stood around in our parkas and wellies. If you drove around that night, the glow of fires would dance above the hedgerows and fields, fireworks cracking over head.

I don’t have the data, but my sense is that we have less bonfires today. My dad tells me it’s because a public bonfire requires liability insurance. Whether that’s true or not, the spectre of health and safety is enough to put off people like the Scouts from exercising their pyromania for the public benefit. There are still public bonfires, but they usually cost quite a few bob to enjoy (presumably to pay for the insurance?).

Our neighbours had a bonfire in their garden, the ash from which covers my car today (grrrrrr). And there were plenty of fireworks shooting off from back gardens (including ours to the right to suitably entertain the kids. But it’s precisely the retreat to privacy that bothers me. Bonfire Night celebrates all that is a bit barmy about England and we are in danger of losing it, especially with that stupid Americanised Halloween that comes a week earlier.

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