PARKIN AND TREACLE TOFFEE

 
 
 Long, long ago before American marketing people,part of that countries continuous cultural imperialism, attempting and sadly succeeding in selling their plastic broomsticks and electric pumpkins to our children,and turning another British traditional festival into a Disneyfied pumpkinfest, we children participated in ‘Bonfire Night.’   

When we were young we went to the street bonfire. The weeks preceding the night we had scoured the local park and neighbourhood for wood for the bonfire. Some of the more notorious streets made late night raids – stealing from the various collections. Someone was always getting rid of old furniture – a sofa here, three legged table there. The older young men and boys would start to build the bonfire as soon as school was finished. They and parents supervised the whole night. If you were lucky enough to have had a box of fireworks given to you, then you handed it over these people and they would set them off. The effigy of guy fawkes, which for several days had been displayed to shoppers on Alexandra Road with pleas of, "Penny for the guy"  would finally be hoisted to the top of the bonfire and it would be lit. Later we would learn that it was not a celebration of vengeance but commemorated the failure of a plot to massacre the ruling classes of the time and to start a civil war.

Where was this bonfire? In the middle of the street of course – where we lived no one had a car. The only vehicles we ever saw, belonged to the milkman, breadman and coalman and the dustmen, (sorry, waste disposal operators’). Potatoes were laid in the hot embers on the edge of the inferno. Mothers’ had been busy most of the day making treacle toffee, toffee apples, (the fruit "disposed of" by the greengrocer on the corner). My favourite was my own Mothers Parkin cake. I still have the receipe, although it is a while since I set to and made any! Many foodstuffs and sweets were still rationed, a decade after we had won a war! That spirit of community is now regretably dead. As are the friends, neighbours and parents who made OUR childhood a window on life and not a prisoner behind ‘windows’.

 Not always happy – but safe

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