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Seasonal Reflections:  November


Simple rules for bonfires?

- Only have them when the wind is blowing away from the neighbours houses, and preferably when there is no wind,

- Don’t burn what will rot down on the compost heap (see our “Growing Stuff” pages),

- Don’t burn green stuff unless you are happy to smoke out the neighbourhood; it’s better to put it in the green recycling bin,

- Don’t burn a pile that’s been sitting there for weeks on end – you may be killing hedgehogs and they are valuable in our gardens, so dismantle and rebuild it before you set fire to it,

- Start with paper and sticks that will quickly burn but then a layer of slightly larger sticks and then bigger wood, so the heat will gradually grow and grow. After a while the heat will send everything straight up in the air and clear the houses,

- Make sure you have a pyramid structure that will not collapse outwards as it burns and cause a hazard.

- Have a bucket of water in the background just in case a spark catches something nearby,

- Don’t have a bonfire when everything around is tinder dry (that is why Autumn is so good for bonfires),

- Don’t leave the bonfire but keep an eye on it until it has burned right down,

- Set boundaries so that little people cannot stray too near,

- Sit back, watch and enjoy, and when it has burnt right down, use the embers to bake potatoes in tinfoil.


And if all this leaves you cold, you have my sympathy. I accept that this is an experience that is dying out and for that I weep at its passing.  





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To Part 2 of November

THE SEASONS: November Reflections originally written in 2010
November - a month of smoke and loud noises?

Bonfire Night: November the 5th is almost here.  Once upon a time it celebrated - at the king’s demand – the failed gunpowder plot of November 5th 1605 when Catholic conspirators apparently, with the help of an individual called Guy Fawkes, were said to have attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Schools may teach it in history but today none of us (?) have a bonfire and let off fireworks for that reason.

If the truth be told, IF we do have a firework party in the back garden, it’s because it is a good opportunity to burn garden rubbish and have a party with fireworks – but then they have appeared more and more as community celebrations on seafronts or in theme parks or at New Year and so perhaps some of the thrust of bonfire night has been dissipated.
Fireworks generally fall into four categories:
· indoor fireworks
· garden fireworks
o fuse time,  3 to 13 seconds, to be viewed at 5 metres minimum
· display fireworks
o fuse time,  5 to 15 seconds, to be viewed at 25 metres minimum
o what seems slightly worrying is that these appear in shops
· fireworks for professional use only
The Firework Code usually includes the following basic guidelines:
1 Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
2 Never give sparklers to a child under 5
3 Buy fireworks marked BS 7114
4 Keep fireworks in a closed box
5 Follow the instructions on each firework
6 Light them at arm's length using a taper
7 Stand well back
8 Never go back to a lit firework
9 Never put fireworks in your pocket
10 Never throw fireworks
11 Keep pets indoors
For more details visit:   or

If you’re thinking of arranging a club or group bonfire party, be careful! Remember the old joke: “How many civil servants does it take to set fire to Guy Fawkes?   23.  One to strike the match and twenty two to fill in the paper work.”  (Sorry if you are a civil servant, but there is truth there!)
So ‘Bonfire Night’ has come and gone. Increasingly it seems, public firework displays are no longer accompanied by a bonfire. A few years ago the talk was of the incredible insurance cover that was needed for such things. Sadly fear and a ‘claims mentality’ have banished the noble bonfire from the public scene.

I went on line to look for some poetry about bonfires and concluded that poets rarely sit and gaze at the wonder of a bonfire. There is plenty about November 5th, but nothing about the bonfire itself.
Autumn is a time for bonfires, it really is.  I appreciate the fact that, for many of us today, a garden the size of a postage stamp means a bonfire is an impossibility. For that you have my sympathy. More by historical luck than by design we are fortunate to have a garden long enough to avoid smoking out the inhabitants and we’ve had it for many years, stick in the muds that we are. But it has meant that our children have grown up with the tradition of bonfires and still they return round about bonfire night to see their old man carry out the annual ritual. While my wife plied most of the family and the grandchildren with hot dogs inside, I established and oversaw the bonfire. After a while one of my sons came out and sat on a garden chair beside me and for a while we just watched. After a respectful time he breathed, “There’s nothing quite like a bonfire is there.” I sat there contented.

Over the years we have had some bonfires! In the days before garden waste recycling bins, the only way to get rid of the rubbish that would not go on the compost heap, was to burn it. After much tree and hedge trimming in early Autumn, a gradual mountain would emerge, on one occasion about fifteen foot high. Our children grew up to appreciate the wonder but also the danger which has now been conveyed to the next generation. As one or two of the little ones came down the garden to see what granddad was doing, they stood close to me at a safe distance from the fire and one said, “Keep away from fires. Fires can hurt.” Wise words little one; well taught my children, but only half a truth.
There will no doubt be some of you who read with wonder as I write – wondering whatever I am going on about, not about the wonder of fire. It simply means you have never sat there at a safe distance and watched the dance of the flames that change so many times in the life of the fire, with its amazing colours and shapes.

Why have a fire? Because it’s fun, and if you have a big garden it’s easier to get rid of stuff this way, and the compost or the compost bin are just not suitable for hard, thick, woody stuff.