november word square

Hot pumpkin soup

November is the month we celebrate Guy Fawkes Night in the UK. When we gather round the bonfire, eat toffee apples, watch a fireworks display, and the children write their names in the air with sparklers.

Like many celebrations in modern times, the origins are often forgotten and the evening is simply one of pure pleasure. But this time I’d like to remind us that this does celebrate a failed coup! It’s not often that a whole nation celebrates something that was designed to break a nation apart!

This week I have a word square celebrating everything we love about the current festival and it’s much lighter in tone as I know that last week might have felt a bit heavy with its revolutionary theme.

As with all word squares, the aim is to choose one word from each column and weave them into a story, a poem, a paragraph or even a first sentence. Alternatively, you can join the word square experts who attempt each week to use every single word in their writing.

Please feel free to leave your effort, or even a link to it if it’s on your own website, below. Alternatively, if you are time strapped share the title you might use, a first or last paragraph, or even a stanza from a poem, or some lyrics.

My effort is below (I’m not an expert!)

The bonfire was always lit at the highest part of the cliff so Fred my elderly neighbour two doors down said, used long ago as a beacon to guide the smuggling boats back to shore undercover of the festivities. Tony handed me a polystyrene cup full of hot pumpkin soup, I was glad of my gloves shielding tender skin from the heat. I smiled, grateful he had included me in the evening, it wasn’t often we spent time together in public, after all his wife and kids were here too. I blew out slowly letting the hot soup cool in the frosty air, watching my breath condense before drifting up and away.

Now it’s your turn. Why not use the comment area below to share your spooky offering?

november word square



  1. Rising to the challenge…this time with a memoir that is (mostly) true….
    ~ ~ ~
    One year, we went to the stock car stadium. Teenagers by then, eager for a proper blaze, the kind that melts your skin, the kind that makes you realise you wished you’d baked potatoes at least once in your life, to taste the ash, the kind that makes you wish you lived somewhere with a hill and a history where flames might mean something, be a symbol, a message, a beacon.

    We only went the once. It was a disappointment.

    Before that year, there were parties at home.

    I remember the parties. We always had a bonfire party. It was a children’s thing, an indoor tea in the cold dining room, small sandwiches and frosty icing on a cake, and pastries. Come to think of it, that was a strange thing to do in November. I don’t remember ice cream, and I never liked jelly, so probably no trifle…or perhaps there was for all the other kids, the ones my parents had decided were my friends. Only as many as would fit round the table though. It wasn’t a big table.

    I can picture the table, all white cloth and pastel-coloured food. I can’t differentiate one year from another. I can’t remember who came, only work out who was probably there. Except for Alex. I remember him. How can you forget a boy whose first name begins with A and last name begins with Z. He had big ears and knew that squirrels lived in drays and I don’t remember when or why his family moved away again.

    Hot dogs and toffee apples were not party food. They were summer food. Fairground food. Nothing to do with dark, wet, November evenings, when (absurdly) we ate sandwiches and cake.
    There was no hot pumpkin soup. Let’s be honest back then, the north-east, late sixties, I had never heard of pumpkin, let alone been able to tell you what one looked like, or the fact that you could eat it. Our Halloween lanterns were carved out of swede, that we called turnip, because we didn’t know the difference.

    After tea, we’d be wrapped up warm and allowed into the back garden. Americans would call it a ‘yard’ – garden does sound a bit too grand for what it was…a bit of concrete, a bit of grass, an outhouse, a shed. Not even a greenhouse yet…which was just as well because where the glass tomato house would come to be was, in my childhood, part of the plot where the fire would be laid, and year on year Guy would be resurrected and burned.

    A pillowcase, stuffed, and vaguely human shaped, a face drawn on with pen or paint. Not good enough to be taken the round for pennies, but good enough for burning. The small funeral pyre of old pallet wood and dried up leaves was set and sparks jumped skywards over the back field.

    Another thing I can’t remember is the smell of Guy-flavoured smoke. Or what we stuffed him with. (Always “him”, never “it”.)

    I do remember the smell of cordite from the fireworks. We knew that “London Lights” lit green and red and white unlike ordinary matches, which is all they were. We knew that sparklers were best enjoyed by writing names and wishes in the air. We knew that Roman Candles weren’t guaranteed to fizz…and that bangers were for hooligans, being all noise and fright and no joy at all.

    We best loved the rockets, launched from milk bottles, that flew high and fell in stars. And Catherine wheels nailed to shed to spin round. We didn’t know she was a saint, and the wheel was torture. We didn’t know the truth about Guido. We might even have thought the celebration was about the attempt rather than that it failed. We didn’t know.

    And now I’m not sure whose side I would be on.


    1. Poor old Guido, burned a million times over since he first appeared on earth. I too remember the bonfire party, watching fireworks in other people’s gardens from the ‘safety’ of the kitchen window and then sparklers with our dog, Pixie, kept out of sight.

  2. Thanks Linda – your piece sparked quite a few memories (no pun intended)

    In my childhood, the surname of the unfortunate guy lovingly stuffed for cremation on November 5th was always ‘Fawkes’. (I suppose this year it may well have been ‘Hancock’). But I digress.

    To a big cheer, our bonfire would be lit so Fawkes – sat on a makeshift throne atop a tall silhouette of wet wood – could have his fifteen minutes of flame. Almost immediately, a chain reaction of other bonfires would appear like distant beacons blazing against the cold November sky.

    Our flickering faces watched as smoke billowed upwards, above which the short-fused egos of fireworks would scream and dogfight for space and attention. In the dark, our frosty breath appeared like dry ice and we waved sparklers around to draw patterns in the air, like artists on a black canvas.

    I also remember the smell of baked potatoes – it was the only time of year I ever saw them cooked this way. There were also toffee apples, although if I’m honest, for me it was always more toffee than apple. The only hot dogs we knew of were at home, sweating with fear.

    When the smoke had cleared, we’d walk home, knowing that when we got there it would be pumpkin soup. Again.

    1. What wonderful imagery Iain “short-fused egos of fireworks”, it feels like the current crop of politicians 🙂

  3. Bonfire night was a real community affair for us. Writing this brought back many memories and a smile to my face.
    “Penny for the guy,” I used to say, holding out a small, hopeful, palm to passers-by.
    My parents ran a pub so I was always guaranteed a prime spot in the neighbourhood with the days ‘takings’ usually spent on sweets in the local Woolworths. We loved making our Guy out of old clothes stuffed with older clothes and proudly pushed him around in anything we could find with wheels. You don’t see it any more and I think kids today are missing out.
    Bonfire night was a community affair. From the start of October, wood, mainly unwanted furniture if I remember correctly, was collected and piled into a huge pyre on a piece of wasteland waiting for the 5th to come around. When it got dark one of the adults lit the fire and we gathered round, moving as close as we dared to the flames so the cold didn’t get us.
    There were no hot dogs but there was always a sparkler in my mittened hand, waved at arms length of course. Food didn’t play much of a part for us kids anyway, not that we cared, we were too excited to eat. The main event, the fireworks, was what we were all there for and they never disappointed.
    Things have changed so much since then. It must be twenty years or so since I dropped some loose change in an upturned palm. Any community bonfire would, sadly, be set on fire within hours by the local ne’er-do-wells.
    What a pity that today’s kids won’t have the same memories.

    1. You bring back so many memories Eileen. We were never allowed to make a guy but it didn’t stop us from helping friends with theirs and in return, we’d get a sweet or two back.

    2. Oh, “penny for the guy” – our guys were never worth even a penny, but we were allowed to drop a couple (only, a couple – the guy-makers had to earn them) into hats on the pavement. I suppose my continuance of that tradition is that I keep my small change as “busker money” – have it in my pocket for the musicians on the streets.

      I agree that in losing these homespun traditions, we are losing something of our heritage – and I wonder what the younger generations will recall of their “innocent” years.

      1. Oh gosh, I wander round with a pocketful of change for buskers and the Big Issue seller, as well as the people who need a cup of coffee to keep warm! I can’t imagine anyone ever getting excited about a pretend bonfire or fireworks streamed on a device of some sort. You lose the scent, the smell, the atmosphere that make these events what they are.

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