Bonfire Night: Penny for the Guy

Penny for the Guy. Bonfire NIght, Guy Fawkes Night, Fifth of November
Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot…

It’s Bonfire Night/ Guy Fawkes Night/ Fireworks Night – whatever. Bonfire Night is all about setting fire to stuff – old furniture, fireworks or effigies of a 17th century Catholic.

Bonfire Night was almost as exciting as Christmas. When I was a child it started in early October by making a ‘Guy’. The Guy was someones Dad’s old shirt/ jumper and jeans/ cords stuffed with newspaper, topped with a football for a head and plonked on a trolley. The Guy was usually pushed around town by a crowd of feral children shouting ‘penny for the Guy’. The most interesting and motivating part of Bonfire Night was the collecting of money to spend on sweets and fireworks (age limits no problem in the 1970s) to let off in the street (usually in daylight) for the month or so preceding Bonfire Night. I haven’t seen ‘penny for the Guy’ in many, many years – it’s so difficult for children to buy fireworks now. The Guy (or what was left of it after the inevitable rain) was either dumped in someones back garden or thrown on top of the a bonfire on and burnt on Bonfire Night.

Bonfire Night for me is forever associated with jacket potatoes filled with cheese and re-baked, toffee apples, bonfire toffee and cinder toffee. Burnt sugar. Very evocative. Very bad for the teeth.


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