In Britain on the 5th of November we celebrate Bonfire Night. I’m not sure if we’re celebrating the death of Guy Fawkes or celebrating the bravado of a group trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
Guy Fawkes was discovered beneath Parliament surrounded by barrels and barrels of gunpowder and was arrested before he had chance to detonate them and start a Catholic uprising.
So every year we build bonfires, fire off fireworks and burn effigies of Mr Fawkes its like the Fourth of July but cold, often wet and nowadays controlled by the Health and Safety bully boys. Bonfires are surrounded by no entry tape, fireworks are controlled and I think you need a degree in pyrotechnics to handle a sparkler these days.
But back in the day we built bonfires in the middle of every street and park. Gangs of ragamuffins stole wood from each others carefully collected piles and outside every shop was a guy, made from an old pair of trousers and a shirt stuffed with newspapers and leaves with a badly painted mask on surrounded by young kids collecting a penny for the guy off every passing grown up. These pennies bought you some bangers, an air bomb or a packet of sparklers.
Come the night and every family in the street would wrap up in scarves,hats and gloves and gather round while one brave dad threw paraffin onto the huge pile of wood, furniture, branches and paper followed by a lit newspaper and a hasty retreat.
Some mums would have made a pan full of mushy peas and some pies would be warming in an oven. Others would provide bonfire toffee, sticky parkin, baked potatoes and toffee apples.
Dads would be letting off small fireworks on wall tops and rockets from milk bottles and every kid would have a sparkler to write their name in the air with. The night wouldn’t be complete without a visit from the fire brigade checking the fire was under control and the phone lines hadn’t melted.
Now its all controlled, probably a lot safer but that little bit of magic like a lot of life’s little pleasures seems to have been sanitised and locked away.
Even the image of Guy Fawkes has been hijacked by an anarchist movement , but I guess that part I can relate to.