It Was Them, Not Me Bonfire Night! The very thought of it gives me a warm glow. Sparklers, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, brandy snaps, thick treacly parkin and deliciously dark bonfire toffee, all wrapped up in a pitch black but dazzlingly colourful night full of cracks, bangs and fizzes, laughter and cheers. Or not, if you read what I wrote when I was eight. We’d been in Fairburn for a couple of months now and my parents were getting into the community spirit. Communal events, at which the village gathered together for festive occasions, were quite common. This was the first one we’d been to and I clearly hated it. If I remember correctly, it was held on a patch of waste ground by the Fairfield estate, the other side of the A1 over the footbridge. It may well have been the first time I’d ventured that side of the village - that was where the slightly cooler, rougher kids with the broad accents lived, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me. I was probably banned from going over there at first and I wouldn’t have wanted to rock the boat. This piece is mainly notable for introducing two sets of characters who would become fairly important in the Fairburn story, their destinies intertwined by a fate no one foresaw. Ralph and Christine Watson were Mum & Dad’s new best friends. I hadn’t officially met them before - they lived in Castleford, not too far from my Gran, but Castleford’s a big place when you’re eight years old. I don’t recall exactly how they all met - maybe Dad got talking to Ralph one day randomly in a garage or something. Over the years we would become great friends, meeting up regularly, even going on holiday together. But this was the first time I’d properly met Ralph, Christine and their two sons, and it seems I wasn’t that keen. There was a good reason for that. One afternoon some months previously, I’d been in the car with my Dad in Castleford, possibly on our way back from Gran’s or to collect Mum from work. On the way, Dad drove down a back street and stopped off at a strange house, leaving me in the car while he went inside, either to deliver or collect something. I was tired and a little bored, so I did what I often did in such situations and laid down in the back of the car while I waited. There were also some kids playing in the street - older kids, just mucking about, but in a way that seemed a bit threatening - and I probably didn’t want them to see me, for fear of being picked on. Unfortunately, the strange car parked in their street was too much of an attraction and they came over to investigate. Seeing these strange faces looming at me through the car window, I didn’t really know what to do. They knew I’d seen them now but I continued to pretend I hadn’t, hoping they’d just go away. Instead, they proceeded to take the piss out of me: “Aww, look, it’s a cute little baby asleep in the car! What’s up, little boy? Are you tired?” I don’t remember what else they said - I just remember the feeling of being scared and trapped, wishing they would go away and leave me alone, and that if I spoke to them, it would only make things worse. I also remember one of them being particularly vocal and particularly piss-takey. It went on for what seemed like hours until my Dad came back and they buggered off. Weirdly enough, a vaguely similar event led to Gary Numan writing Cars, which had only just left the charts. The difference being that in my car, I didn’t feel particularly safe. It wasn’t until bonfire night 1979 that I realised the strange house belonged to the Watsons - the lady was Christine and the piss-takey boy was their eldest son, Steven. Though we never mentioned it, I imagine he recognised me if I recognised him, so there may have been some mutual wariness and regret. But I don’t remember him ever being nasty to me again. In fact, we got on famously and I came to look up to him - he was an arty type, like me, into his reading, writing, drawing and whatnot, with a killer sense of humour. Richard, as I remember, was quieter, more down to Earth, had more of an interest in football, though I got on with him too. Whatever - I’ll talk about this more some other time. The main point here is that, on this particular bonfire night in 1979, they were very naughty indeed. The thing is, I would never have picked up fireworks as a boy, dead or otherwise. I had long been scarred by those public information films about kids being burned by picking up hot sparklers. I loved sparklers beyond belief but would never pick up seemingly “dead” fireworks. Not because I was a “good boy” but because I didn’t want to get my hands blown off. My childhood was full of people with less care for their own safety than me - as, indeed, is my adult life - and if I ever let them con me into living as dangerously as they do, it never ends well. The other major antagonist in this story is Simon Jackson. The Jacksons were neighbours of ours who lived in the same terrace at No 5 or 6 or something. Simon was much younger than me - I’m not even sure he’d started school yet, so he may only have been three years old, perhaps four. On occasion, his Mum would babysit me, and in return, sometimes I would look after him for a couple of hours. I remember being lumbered with him on more than one occasion - those dreadful days when you think you’ve got time to yourself, then someone asks you to look after a four-year-old and all day you have to put up with inane questions like “Is your Dad as strong as the Incrediel Bulk?” and “Have you got a tail? I’ve got a tail. My Mum hasn’t got a tail. If my Dad’s got a tail, has my Mum got a fairy?” (Fairy tale, you see.) There’ll be more about Simon when we get to Ward’s 7. As a primary school teacher, my wife finds this story fascinating - not necessarily for what it includes but for what it doesn’t include. She says it displays a very strange, possibly autistic, mind, since most kids would imbue it with emotional language, writing about the fireworks, the colours, the loud bangs and how amazing it all was. I however see the opposite - I see a little boy seething with rage and disappointment. This piece only reveals what a terrible time I had, my enjoyment of all the sounds and colours utterly marred by kids making me move about all the time, banging into me, ruining my food and trying to get me into trouble. I get my own back by becoming, once again, Fairburn’s Number One informant, dobbing in both Simon Jackson for ruining my sausage roll and the Watson brothers for picking up dead fireworks. This unnecessary inability to omit the truth would get me into deep trouble later on. A few other things I can’t be bothered to fit together into proper paragraphs 1. Coffee for an eight year old? No wonder I have high blood pressure. Giving speedy drugs to little kids ain’t wise, and may lead not only to a lifelong caffeine addiction but also to harder legal highs like alcohol and nicotine. I should know. 2. I can’t spell “freinds” yet. Or “saussage”. Couldn’t be bothered to use a ruler for the margin either, or to do one at all on the second page. 3. The bonfire in the picture is full of tyres, and I’m pretty sure the real bonfire was too. Was this wise? Is this what people normally do on Guy Fawkes night? Burn a load of tyres? Isn’t that, like, toxic or something? 4. This isn’t the last time I would write a dark story about bonfire night. But it is the last time I wrote about it in Fairburn.
Bonfire Night
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
Clarke Hall Old Houses Fairburn v Burton Salmon The Forgotten World String Orchestra Sheet Lightning Grezelda the Witch Bonfire Night Metropolitan Police Christmas 1979 Great Space Battles Luddenden The Hat’s Adventure Sleeping Beauty What I Do On Monday Waen Shepherd 2 Waen Shepherd in: Green Squids Ward’s 7: Move of the Galaxy Ward’s 7: Alpha Centauri Ward’s 7: Escape to Mother Ship Ward’s 7: Death Planet Blake’s 7 Ward’s 7: The Hunt Ward’s 7: Rescue The Flame in the Desert The Fugitive British Skiing Events Fiends of the Eastern Front Apeth (from Outer Space!) Tedosaurus (from Prehistoric Time!) A Walk in Our Village The Mountain Called Tyrannosaurus Rex Florence Nightingale War of the Worlds The Micronauts in: Supersilver
The Old Stone Age Ancient humans try to co-exist with cave lions and giant deer
Darth Vader An autograph from a genuine stand-in
Clarke Hall The place and time where it all began… September 1679?
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Sheet Lightning Waen and his Gran shelter from the sheet- shaped storm
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra
BLONDIE! Pictures of Little Waen’s lovely blonde hair
It Was Them, Not Me Bonfire Night! The very thought of it gives me a warm glow. Sparklers, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, brandy snaps, thick treacly parkin and deliciously dark bonfire toffee, all wrapped up in a pitch black but dazzlingly colourful night full of cracks, bangs and fizzes, laughter and cheers. Or not, if you read what I wrote when I was eight. We’d been in Fairburn for a couple of months now and my parents were getting into the community spirit. Communal events, at which the village gathered together for festive occasions, were quite common. This was the first one we’d been to and I clearly hated it. If I remember correctly, it was held on a patch of waste ground by the Fairfield estate, the other side of the A1 over the footbridge. It may well have been the first time I’d ventured that side of the village - that was where the slightly cooler, rougher kids with the broad accents lived, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me. I was probably banned from going over there at first and I wouldn’t have wanted to rock the boat. This piece is mainly notable for introducing two sets of characters who would become fairly important in the Fairburn story, their destinies intertwined by a fate no one foresaw. Ralph and Christine Watson were Mum & Dad’s new best friends. I hadn’t officially met them before - they lived in Castleford, not too far from my Gran, but Castleford’s a big place when you’re eight years old. I don’t recall exactly how they all met - maybe Dad got talking to Ralph one day randomly in a garage or something. Over the years we would become great friends, meeting up regularly, even going on holiday together. But this was the first time I’d properly met Ralph, Christine and their two sons, and it seems I wasn’t that keen. There was a good reason for that. One afternoon some months previously, I’d been in the car with my Dad in Castleford, possibly on our way back from Gran’s or to collect Mum from work. On the way, Dad drove down a back street and stopped off at a strange house, leaving me in the car while he went inside, either to deliver or collect something. I was tired and a little bored, so I did what I often did in such situations and laid down in the back of the car while I waited. There were also some kids playing in the street - older kids, just mucking about, but in a way that seemed a bit threatening - and I probably didn’t want them to see me, for fear of being picked on. Unfortunately, the strange car parked in their street was too much of an attraction and they came over to investigate. Seeing these strange faces looming at me through the car window, I didn’t really know what to do. They knew I’d seen them now but I continued to pretend I hadn’t, hoping they’d just go away. Instead, they proceeded to take the piss out of me: “Aww, look, it’s a cute little baby asleep in the car! What’s up, little boy? Are you tired?” I don’t remember what else they said - I just remember the feeling of being scared and trapped, wishing they would go away and leave me alone, and that if I spoke to them, it would only make things worse. I also remember one of them being particularly vocal and particularly piss-takey. It went on for what seemed like hours until my Dad came back and they buggered off. Weirdly enough, a vaguely similar event led to Gary Numan writing Cars, which had only just left the charts. The difference being that in my car, I didn’t feel particularly safe. It wasn’t until bonfire night 1979 that I realised the strange house belonged to the Watsons - the lady was Christine and the piss-takey boy was their eldest son, Steven. Though we never mentioned it, I imagine he recognised me if I recognised him, so there may have been some mutual wariness and regret. But I don’t remember him ever being nasty to me again. In fact, we got on famously and I came to look up to him - he was an arty type, like me, into his reading, writing, drawing and whatnot, with a killer sense of humour. Richard, as I remember, was quieter, more down to Earth, had more of an interest in football, though I got on with him too. Whatever - I’ll talk about this more some other time. The main point here is that, on this particular bonfire night in 1979, they were very naughty indeed. The thing is, I would never have picked up fireworks as a boy, dead or otherwise. I had long been scarred by those public information films about kids being burned by picking up hot sparklers. I loved sparklers beyond belief but would never pick up seemingly “dead” fireworks. Not because I was a “good boy” but because I didn’t want to get my hands blown off. My childhood was full of people with less care for their own safety than me - as, indeed, is my adult life - and if I ever let them con me into living as dangerously as they do, it never ends well. The other major antagonist in this story is Simon Jackson. The Jacksons were neighbours of ours who lived in the same terrace at No 5 or 6 or something. Simon was much younger than me - I’m not even sure he’d started school yet, so he may only have been three years old, perhaps four. On occasion, his Mum would babysit me, and in return, sometimes I would look after him for a couple of hours. I remember being lumbered with him on more than one occasion - those dreadful days when you think you’ve got time to yourself, then someone asks you to look after a four-year-old and all day you have to put up with inane questions like “Is your Dad as strong as the Incrediel Bulk?” and “Have you got a tail? I’ve got a tail. My Mum hasn’t got a tail. If my Dad’s got a tail, has my Mum got a fairy?” (Fairy tale, you see.) There’ll be more about Simon when we get to Ward’s 7. As a primary school teacher, my wife finds this story fascinating - not necessarily for what it includes but for what it doesn’t include. She says it displays a very strange, possibly autistic, mind, since most kids would imbue it with emotional language, writing about the fireworks, the colours, the loud bangs and how amazing it all was. I however see the opposite - I see a little boy seething with rage and disappointment. This piece only reveals what a terrible time I had, my enjoyment of all the sounds and colours utterly marred by kids making me move about all the time, banging into me, ruining my food and trying to get me into trouble. I get my own back by becoming, once again, Fairburn’s Number One informant, dobbing in both Simon Jackson for ruining my sausage roll and the Watson brothers for picking up dead fireworks. This unnecessary inability to omit the truth would get me into deep trouble later on. A few other things I can’t be bothered to fit together into proper paragraphs 1. Coffee for an eight year old? No wonder I have high blood pressure. Giving speedy drugs to little kids ain’t wise, and may lead not only to a lifelong caffeine addiction but also to harder legal highs like alcohol and nicotine. I should know. 2. I can’t spell “freinds” yet. Or “saussage”. Couldn’t be bothered to use a ruler for the margin either, or to do one at all on the second page. 3. The bonfire in the picture is full of tyres, and I’m pretty sure the real bonfire was too. Was this wise? Is this what people normally do on Guy Fawkes night? Burn a load of tyres? Isn’t that, like, toxic or something? 4. This isn’t the last time I would write a dark story about bonfire night. But it is the last time I wrote about it in Fairburn.
Bonfire Night
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981