- Remember, remember the fifth of November,
- The gunpowder treason and plot,
- I know of no reason
- Why the gunpowder treason
- Should ever be forgot.
This is Guy Fawkes, aka Guido Fawkes.
He looks, not surprisingly, a bit like this chap from V for Vendetta:
On this day in 1605 he tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament with rather a lot of gunpowder.
In England, we celebrate Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night by lighting bonfires topped with an effigy of Guy Fawkes and watching him burn a horrid death. We also have fireworks. Lots of them.
In olden days, maybe now too, British children made Guys (a bit like scarecrows) with their father's old trousers and shirt, stuffed with straw or newspaper. Often they'd prop him up on a street corner with a sign slung around his neck "Penny for the Guy" and the money collected would go to buy fireworks.
We had huge bonfires when I was a child -- all the fallen branches and bits of fence post and cardboard boxes saved up for weeks beforehand. My father was a disciple of pyrotechnics and would bury rockets in the ground in old milk bottles; they'd shoot silver rain and golden showers (tho' my friend Wendy is unsure of the usage of that expression) into the air. There were spitting Catherine wheels nailed to bits of wood, effervescent roman candles, screechers, serpents, sparklers and whizzers. Errant rockets, loose from their bottles, often shot across the ground as people remained miraculously uninjured (why my father never lost a finger, I'll never know). And on damp November nights fireworks sometimes wouldn't light or would light so slowly that a new firework was brought out to replace it, and suddenly with a whizz-pop-bang the old wet firework would explode into the sky making all the children shriek with surprise.
But the best part was the sausages, sausage rolls, baked potatoes stuffed with butter and cheese, huge vats of leek and potato soup, ham sandwiches with Colman's mustard on silky white bread, hot Ribena and flasks full of sloe gin and single malt for the grown ups. We had cold fingers and frozen toes and the English sky was black but for the phosphorescent trails of fireworks and the gleeful hiss as they screeched over our heads.