The Special Relationship


It happened in 1962,
Just a month after the Cuban Missile Crisis,
When we prayed for peace repeatedly in assembly;
Half-heartedly, to be honest,
For our minds were more on Swindon Town FC,
And a promising early season promotion push;
But when half-term came, Godfrey (Goff) Bristow,
Got busy with the axe,
And was soon felling the copse near the brook,
And all attendant hedgerows:
He built the street bonfire pretty well single-handedly,
And by the end of the holiday week,
The bonny was ready.


A circular structure, like a palisade,
An empty space in the centre,
Awaiting the moment when the circle
Would be transformed and filled with hidden branches
(And random household flotsam and jetsam),
Into a towering triangle,
With assorted guys hurled at the pinnace.


But for the moment, the bonny needed guarding,
Especially at dusk when it was thought
That the dreaded Poplar Avenue gang
Would cross the liminal Cricklade Road boundary.
To launch a ruthless attack upon our bonny,
The night sky red with premature incendiarism - But our protection parties saw us through unscathed,
Until George Hunt, once of Swindon Town FC,
Would approach the bonfire with a slightly objectionable authority,
Light the first match, as per, and set the bonny ablaze -
While we in crude imitation
Of the crude stereotypes absorbed
From a constant diet of TV Westerns,
Performed a circular ceremonial dance,
Chanting, hollering and Wounded Knee gyrating
In a St Vitas dance around the pyre.


But on this Bonfire Night,
November the fifth 1962,
Real Americans were present:
Joey Donaghue was there with ma and pa,
Joey Donaghue, overpaid with huge amounts of pocket money,
And over here to protect us from the Russian bear,
In a special relationship:
His parents with a flash car,
He with his flash bike,
He with his box of fireworks –
the likes of which we’d never seen -
And boasting, loud American voice.


So, when a stray spark somehow ignited
Joey’s Texan king-size box of fireworks,
The consequence was a pyrotechnic conflagration
Of star-spangled simultaneity,
The likes of which had never been seen
At any bonfire night, anywhere.


For when Joey’s box of fireworks caught that spark,
There was an explosive nano -second,
So stretched and full of colour and movement,
That it was like observing the beginning
And the ending of the Universe
All wrapped together in one brief moment.


There was a brief moment of silence;
Someone coughed;
Then someone laughed,
And then we all joined in.
Apart from Joey Donaghue.
Who cried his eyes out,
And wailed all the way home.


We nearly pissed ourselves laughing.
It was a special relationship
. It was our missile crisis.


And Swindon got promoted that season, too.

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