Things that go Bang! in the night

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme: Halloween

Remember the Time Blog Hop

Growing up in Belfast during The Troubles I did not get to experience fireworks; the sale of these explosive devices was banned throughout Northern Ireland. When we heard the bang of an explosion it was most likely to be a bomb going off, an all too frequent occurrence in the city throughout the 1970s.

Across the water in England there was much talk of bonfire night (5th November) when effigies of Guy Fawkes would be burned and fireworks would be lit in people’s gardens or at organised displays. We did not celebrate this event, preferring the traditions of Halloween.

My mother would dig the inside out of a large turnip (the English call this vegetable a swede) to make a Jack-o’-lantern. The great effort required to do this was lost on me at the time, but I did appreciate the scary face she would carve and the glow when the candle was placed inside and lit. It smelled awful.

I do not remember dressing up and we did not go trick or treating. Our low key parties involved games such as ducking for apples in a basin of water and munching on toffee covered apples that my mother made for us. We would light sparklers in our back yard and swirl these sticks of light around, making momentary trails of miniature stars in the cold dark. I found these thrilling.

Our most memorable Halloween party though was one year when my cousins came over to join us for the evening. They had discovered a new entertainment and brought it over to try: indoor fireworks!

My parents must have been redecorating our front room as it had no carpet. We four children were sitting on bare floorboards while the adults enjoyed drinks in the back room next door. I guess we knew that this new, exciting amusement would be frowned upon because we did not seek permission to proceed. Instead, we read the instructions carefully and gathered together the implements required: matches and a plate. Unfortunately we selected one of my mother’s best plates, set out ready for the adult’s supper later.

My younger cousin had possession of the pack of fireworks so was the one to prepare the first device and light the fuse. We watched with bated breath, expecting a colourful explosion of light that would fill the room. It was exciting and scary, probably because we could not truly believe that a firework indoors could be safe.

As the lit fuse reached it’s base there was a slight pop and then a mighty crack as the plate holding the non firing firework was sundered. At that moment, perhaps realising (as a parent will) that we children were up to some mischief, my mother walked into the room. We got the explosion we had been waiting for, but not from the anticipated source.

My mother’s plate could not be replaced. She could not comprehend why we had not used an old, cheap item of crockery or, better yet, gone outside (but they were indoor fireworks mummy!). Young kids playing with lit matches on a wooden floor horrified her. I am not sure if there was a crime that we had not committed that night.

The remaining fireworks were removed and we were sent to find less damaging entertainments. Chastened and tearful we each blamed the other for causing such upset. I think we were as put out about the lack of display from the one device we had managed to light; all that trouble caused and not even a show to mollify us.

Halloween has now changed beyond recognition as the American traditions have crossed the water. Candy, costumes and pumpkins have all been adopted with barely an apple in sight. The thrill and fear of what the night may hold has been replaced with a jolly celebration as the ghosts and ghouls become figures of fun to be mocked and played with. If the souls of the dead are still at large, they stay away.

Fireworks

To read the other posts in this week’s Blog Hop, click on the link below.

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Family time

We are half way through the autumn half term break from school. My husband has taken the week off work and wanted to go away for a few days but nothing was sorted so we have spent the time at home. Given the recent weather here in the south of England I am fine with this arrangement.

The forecast storm last weekend came and went with the only casualties we saw being a littering of leaves in our garden and a missing ping pong table cover that later turned up in a side alley. Lying warm and cosy in bed, listening to the rain on the window panes and the wind whistling through the trees, was actually quite comforting. I appreciated once again the luxury of being safe and warm in my own home. Too many these days are not so lucky.

My daughter had made many plans for this holiday week so we ate out as a family on one of the few nights when we were all free. We opted for the informal, relaxed atmosphere of our local Pizza Express and were not disappointed. Sometimes the company and ambience matter more than the food, and I do still enjoy eating pizza, despite my advanced age!

The morning after the storm that never really happened, my husband set out to deliver our daughter to the first of her many appointments: a three day private gathering of her writer friends to critique, encourage and continue with their respective stories in a sociable but intensive environment. With our resident vegetarian away we decided to treat my younger son to a meal at one of his favoured eateries. He enjoys a freshly made, thick and meaty burger with ketchup and chunky chips far more than any fine dining experience. I tried one myself and it was satisfyingly tasty.

Alongside these outings, my boys and I have been working on the finishing touches to my daughter’s Loki costume. We have still to create the helmet though; it is proving particularly tricky to make. Today, both she and my younger son have arranged to attend the opening of Thor: The Dark World with friends. The rest of us will probably wait for the release of the DVD, by which time we will undoubtedly have picked up the majority of the plot from other sources.

All of this activity and it is not yet Halloween. For me, it has been a good holiday thus far. I have managed to find plenty of opportunities to read and write as well as spending time with my little family. There has been no pressure to perform and plenty of treats along the way. Had we left home for a few days it is unlikely that I would have felt so relaxed.

I would also have had to leave a poorly hen. My little flock have now completed their winter worming week and are, once again, wandering free in the wider garden by day. One of my older ladies is looking unhappy though. She is moulting, which doesn’t help, but is also moving with the slow gait of an unhappy hen. With no other outward signs of problems it may just be old age; I am glad that I am here to keep an eye on her.

I can understand why some animals hibernate. When the temperatures drop I find it comforting to wrap up warm and snuggle down indoors. I enjoy the long, dark evenings when the curtains are drawn and the lamps have been lit. I feel content to relax in my armchair, feet up with a good book.

And still we have half the holiday left. There are jobs to complete around the house and garden, but no sense of urgency. I am keen to maintain this contented atmosphere, to allow the days to flow with just the occasional highlight to draw us together.

Family time is so fleeting and precious. ‘This is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it.’    

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