Jayne Dawson: Only a chump would want old-style bonfire night back

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Well then. It’s about now that we people with a few more miles on the clock start speaking in tongues. Or we might as well be.

The clocks going back is the signal. Dark nights, cold feet, long sessions trying to bleed the radiators into submission, it all leads to one thing.

We start talking about chumping.

You know, chumping. Oh, you don’t? You must be one of those others then. One of those other generations who didn’t grow up with Blue Peter’s John Noakes as a role model, and hanging on every word of Jackanory.

Those of us who did remember chumping with more affection than it warrants. It meant collecting wood for the street bonfire on Nov 5, and work could begin up to a couple of weeks beforehand.

We girls, all brought up nicely, would forage for, well, twigs basically, which we would arrange neatly at the appointed place.

But certain boys would come back dragging half a tree, usually stolen from other boys on a neighbouring street in a daring raid involving scuffles, unkind words and some parental threats.

In an average year, the half tree in question could be stolen and re-stolen several times, leaving the bonfire looking more like a pancake day celebration.

This would go on until Nov 5 itself, when a bored-looking dad would drive home with a big wagon of old pallets and stack them into a towering inferno. Job done. Street bonfire saved.

That was chumping. And I can’t say I miss it. Those raids terrified me.

But the memory at this time of year, as the darkness takes hold, can lead to a burst of nostalgia from we people who grew up in the chumping years.

And don’t think Halloween gets missed out. Oh no. Who of the John Noakes generation can resist delivering a few words on how there was no such thing in our day.

It’s true enough. The newly-invented Halloween, with its dressing up and carved pumpkins and all that is actually fun - except for that tedious trick-or-treat bit.

But I do wonder how those who voted to leave the European Union because they wanted “to get out country back” feel about our adoption of this completely American custom.

And that’s on top of our adoption of American films, American actors, and American reality TV stars. I’m sure there will be people who know can identify the two American presidential candidates more easily than they c an identify their own UK prime minister. Just saying.

At least the Americans can’t mess with our bonfire night. It may be a bit strange and bloodthirsty, burning an effigy of the unfortunate Guy Fawkes, but it is all our own.

But still my very own Jackanory/ John Noakes generation has plenty to say about the changing nature of Bonfire Night, and when I say “changing” I naturally mean “declining”.

The grumpy, gloomy people say Bonfire Night is now a boring hell of health-and-safety- conscious community bonfires.

No one tries to shove a Jumping Jack or a Firecracker down the back of your jumper anymore, no-one walks around with their pockets full of bangers and boxes of matches anymore, no one sets their garden fence/neighbour’s shed/whole self on fire any more.

To which I can only say, er, GOOD!

Sometimes nostalgia is entirely misplaced. Sometimes - very often, mostly all the time - things change because they need to, and for the better.

A big safe, spectacular firework display, a park full of families having fun, a walk home through smoky autumnal air to pie and peas or fish and chips. This beats beating up your neighbours over chumping rights, or setting your fence on fire with your back garden bonfire.

Happy, improved, November 5.

Leave that dust alone

Phew, time to relax everybody. Clamber down from that guttering, stop scrubbing those curtains.

Word has come from the wisest of sources that we don’t have to tackle these tasks daily, or even weekly. Not. Even. Monthly.

Permission has been granted, by the Good Housekeeping Institute no less, to only clean the chimney, the gutters, the carpets, the curtains once a year. I know! The relief, the giddy freedom of it all.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. If you are in the habit of dusting the lightbulbs every time you look at them, stop now.

Lightbulbs, like the odds ‘n’ sods drawer in the kitchen, should also only be tackled annually. As should the window frames, the outdoor furniture and the upholstery.

It’s okay to leave them be.

Of course, this conversation could be leaving you puzzled. Not because you have these tasks on a weekly rota but because the idea of taking a duster to a lightbulb has never have occurred to you. The odds ‘n’ sods drawer might have been left undisturbed since you took possession of the house all those decades ago and the curtains will be replaced before they are washed, because that is a neater, cleaner solution all round.

If this is you, then do not worry about it. It’s me too. In fact, it’s all of us. I guess a dusted lightbulb could improve your life, but only if your life was very, very dull.

Time for tattoos to lose the image

I think the time has come for tattoos to lose their rebellious image, don’t you?

So many people have designs inked on various parts of their body that the practice has become commonplace.

You could say that once former prime minister’s wife Samantha Cameron stepped through the door of Number 10 on feet adorned with a dolphin tattoo, the art had reached the very heart of the establishment.

So I think the rule operated by most police authorities, that tattoos on their officers must not be visible while in uniform, needs to go.

Research by the Police Federation reveals that more than half of all female officers, and almost the same percentage of male officers have an inking.

And it turns out that most of the public don’t care about that, and don’t mind if the tattoos are visible.

The days of disapproval are way out of date.

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