Fireworks in Every Sense of the Word!

  • Posted on: 05/11/2021

Join Muriel and Jasper on November 5th, 1961….

There have been numerous reports of firework and bonfire accidents in Glasgow. The Glasgow Herald blames this on the desire of neighbours to outdo one another or as they report the desire to be seen to be keeping up with the Fawkeses. 

In McLaren’s Gentleman’s Outfitters, Gordon Street Glasgow 

“Mr Wylie, how wonderful to see you, we have missed you in the dear green place these past few months.”

“Thank you, Mr Tucker, I must say it is lovely to be back in Glasgow despite the rain, the gloom and the general air of menace. I have missed it.”

“And Mrs Wylie, how is the dear lady wife, simply marvellous I hope?”

“Yes, she did enjoy being at The White House and to quote the First Lady, ‘has taken the Presidency to a new level of gracious living’. They pleaded with her to stay and help out with world problems, but she said she didn’t fancy Cuba as she had no taste for rum. So, she is glad to be home, but of course while the cat is away the mice will play.”

“Oh dear, Mr Wylie, nothing too serious one hopes?”

Difficulties on the Home Front

“I suppose given the current threat of atomic warfare one shouldn’t moan. However, all things being relative, we arrived back in auld Scotia to find our woman what does but not a lot has gone on to pastures new. She left us in the lurch or rather with her daughter-in-law Sharon, who has little love of housework,but a passion for beehive hairdos and Bingo.”

“Surely she cannot be that bad Mr Wylie?”

“Unfortunately, she can. My porridge this morning would have made a good alternative to Polyfilla. That was bad enough, but she then put Muriel’s Paisley shawl (inherited from her great grandmamma) in the top loader with half a box of Daz.”

“Not clever Mr W, but if I might be so bold perhaps not a capital crime?”

“Perhaps not Mr Tucker, however she then put half a bottle of Chateau Margaux in the beef casserole for tonight’s Bonfire Party.”

“I take your point.”

“Exactly Mr Tucker, exactly. We might be able to train her for the heavy work, but Muriel is putting out feelers for someone more suited to our needs.”

“I take it there is no chance of your former woman coming back, perhaps with a little financial encouragement?”

“I don’t think so. She is currently in a relationship with Emile Durkheim and epistemological realism.”

“Not customers of ours.”

“No, he’s more Leipzig than Langside. Anyway, it’s all my fault apparently.”

“Sorry to hear that, I would offer the services of my flat mate Eric. He is brilliant on the domestic front, but he has his work cut out at The Stockwell China Bazaar and at weekends is re-papering my long lobby. He is wonderful with a dado.”

There is a Price to Pay For New Clothes

“Now, Mr Wylie, how may McLaren’s help you this morning?”

“Well Mr Tucker, I read in this morning’s crumpled Glasgow Herald and therefore it must be true that and I quote Men for your personal comfort… check over your needs now. Mrs Wylie feels I need refreshing for autumn. So, here I stand like Martin Luther, before you.”

“I don’t think I have had the pleasure of his inside leg, but then perhaps he is also in Leipzig?”


“That can be nasty. My granny swore by Dr Watson’s Worm Syrup. Now talking of measurements, we had better check things, given all those American portions. I will get my tape if you will be so kind as to pop into the fitting room.”

“It’s Worms in Germany and I am certainly no taller, Mr Tucker. My legs are exactly the same length as when I left on the Queen Mary for New York.”

“Well Mr Wylie that will be £4 and 12 shillings for the cavalry twills, and you were spot on about the inside leg measurements being the same as before, but there are a couple of inches on the waist.  The baby lamb jacket in the tobacco shade as advertised in this morning’s Herald all comes to £25 and 10 shillings. The Norwegian cotton underpants add on an additional £7.”

“I didn’t know they had cotton in Norway.”

“There you go, Mr Wylie.  And the rest of the day?”

“Well, I am meeting Mrs Wylie at the Club for lunch and this evening it’s fireworks. Muriel has decided that we will have the West End’s premier Bonfire Night party at home.”

“Well, the beef casserole should be a success.”

“It certainly should Mr Tucker.” 

Lunch at the Club

“Hello Muriel, I hope you have not been waiting too long. It seemed to take ages in McLaren’s.”

“I came early, as I couldn’t stand being in the house any longer with Sharon. I just hope she won’t get into too much difficulty with cleaning the flatware. Surely even she can grasp – wash, polish on, rub, polish off, rinse in warm soapy water, buff, and place in canteen. I have even written it down on a piece of paper. I have suggested by way of encouragement that when all tasks are complete she thinks of it as “full house”, or whatever they say in Bingo.”

“What exactly is Bingo, Muriel?”

“I am not entirely sure except the dress code seems to be carpet slippers, hair curlers and a net scarf over skyscraper hair;  probably something for the anthropologists. Anyway, I have ordered you a gin and dubonnet and the salmon fishcakes, which are fairly light as I think there will plenty of food tonight at my pyrotechnic running buffet. Did you ask Mr Macaulay if he would light the bonfire while you put Handel’s Firework Music on the radiogram? I know it’s for Gayle and her friends from School, but it is never too early to come to grips with the late baroque era. What did you get at McLaren’s?

Anniesland, Archangel and Norway!

“A pair of slacks, a winter outdoor jacket in tobacco baby lamb, and some Scandinavian underwear.”

“You already have enough winter underwear to kit out Scott’s exhibition to the Antarctic. We live near Anniesland Cross Jasper, not Archangel.”

“Well, it is Norwegian cotton and a bargain at that.”

“Norwegian Cotton, that’ll be right! I bet it was that Mr Tucker. He sees you coming. I have had dealings with that friend of his in the Stockwell China Bazaar. He tried to sell me a so-called Limoges posy vase from the seconds department and was floored when I said I knew Poole Pottery when I fell over it as it was popular in ‘Chez Nous’. Come to think of it, I should get them to come and work for us. Those two could supply sand to the Sahara.”

“Umm not sure Mr Tucker would give up his measuring easily, worth a try. Do you think we are being harsh on Sharon? Should we give her a chance?!

“I suppose so. Mrs Travers was a bit rough around the edges when she first came and look what we did for her, Jasper. Well, you really Jasper. Now here comes lunch!

Arrangements for the Bonfire Party

“Another drink, my dear?”

“I don’t think so Jasper, I need a clear head for this evening. Now Hairy Mary  from Inveraray will be taking care of the children’s buffet in the morning room with an entertainer for the post fireworks period. Mrs Macaulay and I will attend to the adults in the dining room. It is a help-yourself fork supper designed to be taken outside and eaten around the bonfire. The main course is the beef casserole. So Jasper your duties are music, fireworks and then the hot punch.

I don’t think it will be a late evening as the children will have to be put to bed at a reasonable hour and Gayle has ballet class in the morning and piano in the afternoon. I have party bags ready for home time, but might I suggest that your 4 stapled roneo-ed fact sheets on ‘Catholic Conspiracies in Stewart Britain’ might be more appropriate for The Historical Society. I think the boys and girls might prefer my Guy Fawkes colouring-in book and crayons. Not that your fact sheets are not fantastic, but they may be too enervating just before bed.”

“If you insist but I did spend a lot of time on them.”

“I know Dahling, it must be hard with your superior brain, but to most people Stewart means Andy. Your idea of providing the children with paper stained with tea and browned in the oven so that they might recreate the letter to Lord Monteagle that uncovered the Gunpowder Plot, is a marvellous one. However, sparklers might be better appreciated.”

“If you say so dear. I will get the bill.” 


“Well, that was a disaster.”

“Not totally Muriel, everything burned well.”

“Too well Jasper, I don’t recall the rustic chestnut fence, which is covered in my Rambling Rector in June between us and the Robertsons being part of the plan. I knew as soon, as I saw Mr Macaulay with that can of paraffin there would be trouble. What is it about some men that they think the word danger does not apply to them?”

“I think he was only trying to be helpful.”

“That is not how the Fire Brigade regarded it. And who knew that Hairy Mary from Inveraray had been secretly working with Gayle on a 7ft rocket made out of soup tins fuelled by sulphur and zinc.”

“I think Muriel it shows Gayle has an aptitude for physics and chemistry.”

“It also makes the neighbours think we eat soup from a tin Jasper. You may have forgotten that I have something of a reputation in the soup world. I suppose its landing a thousand feet from the vegetable patch of a superior Glasgow home is something of an achievement. Just a pity the parachute failed to open, and it went into the Minister’s greenhouse. Oh, and by the way the R.A.F. would like a written apology.”

“I can manage that and if it’s any consolation the food was a great success.”

“No, it was not. Sharon ruined the slow cooked casserole in the red wine given to us by the Estate. I said 4 hours on a low peep not Regulo 8. What a waste! I suppose it was inevitable.”

“But you saved the day.”

“Only because I had a fridge full of sausages, a pound of onions, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce and a bucket of tomato soup left over from a 7-foot rocket. Everyone has sausages Jasper. I wanted our Bonfire Night to be an affair to remember. I will advertise on Monday; Mrs T wouldn’t have burnt my casserole, nor would she have emptied half a bottle of Bordeaux into it. Sharon can stay for the heavy work.”

A Few Days Later

“Jasper I have brought your coffee. What are you doing?”

“Oh, I was just reading the reply to my R.A.F. apology.”

“And are they still furious?”

“No, they want to invite us to visit one of their bases as they think the soup tin rocket might have wings and they want to encourage young people and aeronautics. Although officially they are furious, they want to meet Hairy Mary and Gayle.”

“What about the Robertsons?”

“Well apparently they have thought for some time that the old fence needed to be replaced as much of it under the Rambling Rector is rotten. Their insurance is happy to pay half and so is ours. The Minister thinks it was a divine message and is happy if the glass can be repaired and there is a reasonable donation to the Foreign Mission Fund. Have you heard from the neighbours?”

“Indeed, I have, the telephone hasn’t stopped ringing. Apparently it was the most simply marvellous bonfire night anyone could recall. They loved the opening with the rocket and  can you believe it, the sausages in the ‘barbeque sauce’ were “spot on” and everyone wants the recipe?”

“Well just tell them it’s pork links, an onion, a tin of soup and a squirt of Worcestershire sauce.”

“ I shall do no such thing, Jasper! The recipe must be far more complicated than that.”

“Well, all is well that ends well on Bonfire Night then?”

“Yes except for Guy Fawkes. And by the way I am still advertising for a new woman what does.”


Jasper Wylie

November 1961