Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bonfire Night!

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.


Debra Snider said...

Beautifully written post! Loved reading it --

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you so much! Love getting positive feedback.

xx Miss W

LPC said...

Evocative. I spent a year in London when I was a kid. To this day I remember the sausage rolls above all else.

Mrs L. said...

And don't forget the poppy on your lapel! I'm here with LOTS AND LOTS of poppies!!!

Liberty London Girl said...



*stamps foot*

Please stop writing such lovely, evocative posts. I can't bear it. LLGxx

Wildernesschic said...

Love your photo of collecting for the guy. You don't see that anymore, last night was a damp squid of a bonfire night here in Wales it just hasn't stopped raining, but there is nothing like a crisp November evening and the crackling of a bonfire. Thank you for stopping by my new blog all support is great support x

CampusLady said...

You know how to make a girl homesick! Lancashire hot pot was our dish of choice around the bonfire - lots of pepper and piping hot! I could hear the crackling of the bonfire, feel the heat on my cheeks and see the sparklers in the hands of children as I read this. Lovely, as always,