It started on Saturday night, we did ours last night and you just know there's more to come! It’s a funny thing to celebrate too, don’t you think? The attempted blowing up of a Parliament. Who thought of bonfires and fireworks - it was a struggle to feed your family in those days wasn’t it, without the kids banging on about next door having got sparklers and where’s ours? You’d think they’d have been happy to just hang, draw and quarter the perpetrators.
I remember my brother taking me over the Mudchute, a marvellous few acres of derelict waste ground behind our maisonettes. A fantastic place for building dens and dog walking, sliding down muddy hills and newt catching - and fireworks. All the space you could want and no roofs or trees to spoil the view. And if you were scared there were plenty of old concrete pill boxes dotted around to shelter in; the Mudchute was right next door to one of the Luftwaffe’s favourite targets from 30 years earlier: Canary Wharf.
Banana boats were still unloading then, they were the East End’s very own ‘Big Ben’ on New Year’s Eve. I remember that because one night, I saw a shadow on my bedroom wall, crawling upwards in the moonlight, just inside my curtain. It was a huge black spider with a furry coaster of a body and pipe cleaners for legs. I yelled for my dad: He approached with a sheet of kitchen towel.
“You’re gonna need a bigger bit!” I shouted, bravely, from the furthest part of the house. “Or a box. In fact, fetch the dog’s collar and lead! And it’s probably not a good idea to flush it!”
I never asked how he caught it or where he put it; I just made him sign a blood oath that it was definitely not in my bedroom anymore.
Back on the Mudchute, more people would gradually wend their way out to their own favourite spot. It soon became one large, public display. The neighbourhood’s big brothers co-ordinated their rockets and bangers - although one or two of them (the bangers, not the brothers) might find themselves attached to a newt’s tail, if it was stupid enough to stick it’s head out of the stream.