"Bonfire Night is one celebratory day in the year that provokes wildly different feelings between old people, animal lovers and young children. As an animal lover, I have always dreaded the occasion coming around annually, knowing it to be a nightmare for all of our pets.
As a growing child of the 1950s, two weeks before the big night, everyone on the estate between the ages of seven and fourteen would be out 'chumping' (the collection of firewood or anything that burns), to stack high on a community patch or in someone's back garden. When one's bonfire stack started to get impressive, the older boys would play hooky from school during the final week and we might take it in turn to spend the days and nights guarding our bonfire; being prepared to fight off any raiders.It was a fine balance how early one started to chump and start building one's communal stack. Do it too soon and one gang risked their wood being stolen in a raid by another gang; do it too late and the only way a gang would get a good stack by the 5th of November would be to steal another gang's pile while they slept. Which gang got the best bonfire on the estate was a matter of great pride and would frequently lead to arson by an over jealous competitor group of boys and girls.
As for the little ones who were too young to chump or burn down their neighbour's wooden stack in a midnight raid, their pre-bonfire pleasure would be derived from making a 'Guy Fawkes' and hawking it around the estate on a bunker (an old wooden 'Go cart' with large pram wheels),while demanding with smiling menace that all who passed paid their 'Penny for the Guy' in appreciation for the construction effort required in the production of such an artistic creation. A goodly amount could be made from this practice, the size of which would usually correspond with how well one's Guy had been crafted. While all children aged seven to teenagers were out: the little ones raising pennies for their Guy Fawkes and the older boys and girls razing fires around the neighbourhood, mum's and grannies would be making bonfire toffee (glued treacle guaranteed to lose the baby teeth of all the little ones), and bonfire parkin (125 grammes of black treacle:50 grammes of honey:150 grammes of unsalted butter: 75 grammes of soft brown sugar:175 grammes of plain flour:2 teaspoons of ground ginger:1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon: 275 grammes of medium oatmeal: 1 large egg: 150 mm of milk and 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda),
Many years ago while visiting hundreds of Primary Schools in Yorkshire, I was amazed by the widely differential treatment that was expected and considered acceptable from boys, but never girls. Even the female teachers reinforced this discrimination between the sexes in their classroom by giving more time to the more noisy and demanding boys than the polite girls; all who were being brought up in a man-made world where boys became doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, air pilots, plumbers and train drivers, while girls were persuaded to aspire to hairdressers, secretaries, nurses, shop assistants and air hostesses etc.etc.
Anyone with a brain knew such practice to be grossly discriminatory. Any modern teacher knows that girls and boys only grow up with different abilities and interests because of the many years of conditioning they receive from birth onward. Indeed, anyone who has ever parented children or listened to them in a playground knows that fighting, swearing, bullying and farting is not the sole prerogative of boys!
In response to this situation I found, I wrote a book for the 5-9-year old called the 'Action Annie Omnibus.' The book contains twelve seasonal stories; one for each month of the year, Annie is the heroine of the book. She is a bossy, clever, adventurous girl who never gives up trying to get what she wants. Whenever her efforts go wrong, she persists in the task until it is completed to her satisfaction. Like all children, Annie can become frustrated and get angry. The story for November is 'Annie's Bonfire.' Annie makes a Guy Fawkes for Bonfire Night and is so proud of her Guy that she cannot bear the idea of burning him on the top of the bonfire.
An old friend of mine, the late Dame Catherine Cookson liked these stories so much that she and her husband Tom paid for the very first publication in aid of a children's charity and the actress, Brigit Forsyth (Of 'The Likely Lads' television fame), recorded the stories for radio transmission for schools in the 1990's. All proceeds from my book sales go to a charitable cause in perpetuity(over £200,000 since 1990), the print size is not small and the standard of production is high. Books in e-book format can be purchased from www.smashwords.com or in hardback from www.lulu.com or www. amazon.com.
Wherever you are this bonfire night, if you are over 60 years old, remove your false teeth before you eat the sticky toffee and if you are young or in charge of the young, please stay safe." William Forde: November 5th, 2017.