Mischief Night

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.

 Mischief Night


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.