The weeks when late autumn drifts to early winter has always been one of my favourite times of the year. A season of mists, acrid woodsmoke and,as a child, a time to go roaming under the cover of darkness through the village, exploring the gennels (backalleys) and paths. Mischief Night was more important in the decades before ancient Halloween traditions returned via the USA. The date of it’s application varies across the North and the Midlands but in my home village it occurred on the 4th of November, the Eve of bonfire night. It was a night of transgression, chaos and disorder-the big village bonfires had to be guarded or they would be set off a day early. Pranks were played and risks taken-it had a nefarious edge that sets it apart from today’s more gentle and civilized Halloween festivities. Hopefully this poem captures something of the flavour.
One long gone mischief night we slipped out
Full of tricks and lairy for random fun
To tie doors to bin lids, little more
Than knocking doors, down long dark alleyways
Tipping bins, alert for fighting dogs
Dashing back down narrow gennels
Catching our breath in the teeth of night.
You, with your long white legs, your black welly boots
Duffle coat imbued with scents of coal smoke
Your eyes full of fizz like sherbet lemons
Blue as some distant summer horizon
That you were destined never to reach.
There are no consolations, no reasons
Call it fate if you will, the random noise
Simmering somewhere on the edge of space
That would skewer you at thirty five
And slowly squeeze each drop of hope from you
Leaving only vague shadows of your dreams.
This mischief night you are so alive
And furiously reckless with your time
Fuelled with an eclectic mix
Fish bits, big fat mushy peas
Rushing, unknowing, into the future.