Mischief Night

Beware the treacle’d car door handles in the morning, carefully open your house front door tomorrow for fear of a booby trap awaiting you and if your dustbin isn’t where it should be then one of your neighbours will have it – and the rest of the streets bins too.

For tonight is Mischief Night.

Yes, I know, its a Northern thing, in fact I have found on my travels that its probably just a Yorkshire/Lancashire thing for when I moved to Newcastle I found absolutely no tolerance of treacle’d car door handles at all, in fact my neighbours were very annoyed with me.

The explanation to us when we were kids is that the evening of November the fourth was the night that the Gunpowder Plotters made their mischief, this was the night that Guido Fawkes primed the barrels of gunpowder in the cellars of the House of Parliament ready for the ‘morrow’s “biggest explosion ever seen on earth” at that time, the mere fact that the plotters plans were usurped being a mere distraction to us kids in Northern England 400 years later, for us November 4th will always be Mischief Night, the night when we could safely sneak around after dark and create havoc the likes of which would surely have brought Anti-Social-Behaviour-Order hell upon us, had ASBO’s been invented when I was a kid, instead you would suffer the indignation of a clip around the back of your head by your local policeman and be told not to get caught again or he’d march you home to your parents next time.

And so we young whipper-snappers were allowed to roam at large during that dark November night, just one night before Bonfire Night it was an ideal opportunity to break out half of our cache of bangers to terrorise the neighbourhood with, a small one penny banger can make a hell of a lot of noise when popped fizzing inside one of the old metal dustbins with its lid “borrowed” for later tying to door handles.

We were luckier than most for we had a teacher living in our street, better still he was a teacher at a different school to our own so no detention from him the next day, his front door faced directly opposite his neighbours so what better place to start your Mischief Night than to tie both door handles together across the driveway and then knock on both doors, retiring to a safe hedge to watch both householders pulling at their own doors and be unable to to open them.

Revisiting him later we’d treacle his car door ready for the next morning and maybe knock on his door again to see if he’d forgotten that he was tied into his own house, and then later still we’d release the door but tie all of the bin lids that we’d “borrowed” from his neighbours in a long line and then to his door handle – send Stuart Ackroyd shinning up his drainpipe and carefully and quietly lay each bin lid one at a time on his porch roof, retire to the safe hedge again and then knock on his door – a fierce tug this time from inside the house would bring realisation that the door was no longer jammed and then one second later all hell would break loose as his neighbours dustbin lids fell from his roof, how the bloke never had a heart attack I don’t know – toss a banger in his driveway as we ran off just to finish the night off.

Potatoes jammed into car exhausts was another favourite although you’d never get to see the outcome but we were assured that car exhausts could easily explode several miles into a journey from pent-up exhaust fumes, they certainly exploded if you shoved a banger up them, so we did that too.

For those miserable old bastard neighbours who spent all year telling us to stop our football games in the street or who had refused us access to their gardens to seek an errant ball or two the odd bag of sand in their petrol tanks was well deserved, or for the really miserable bastards, sugar, for again we had been assured that sugar in a petrol tank was a most explosive mix, it may have been boyhood exaggeration of course for I have not heard the likes of it since, but lots of our mothers found themselves severely lacking in sugar on November 5th onwards.

Eggs were made for throwing at windows and “garden hopping” was legal on Mischief Night, whole streets of back gardens became our National Hunt racecourses as we raced under, over and through fences and hedges making as much noise as possible to raise the ire of the neighbours, its possible that we caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage to dozens upon dozens of back garden fences, but it was Mischief Night and to be expected.

Life was simpler, kids like us were expected to maintain certain standards, being a little bastard on Mischief Night was one of those standards that we had to achieve year on year, our elders would have been severely disappointed had we not acted like little hooligans on that one night of the year and so we did not let them down – neighbours are too soft these days, if any single one of our exploits occur tonight they will be reported to the police and ASBOs issued, Binding Over To Keep The Peace orders applied for, we’ve grown soft and more importantly have forgotten our celebration of the night that could have changed English history, Guido Fawkes’ Mischief Night.


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