Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Today is Guy Fawkes' Night in the UK. We commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot with parties, fireworks displays, and bonfires on which we burn Guy Fawkes in effigy.

Our family went to the local park for the celebration there last night (Saturday must be more convenient than Sunday for a big organised display). We bundled up in scarves and hats and assembled in the car park of the civic hall. From there we followed a marching band in procession to the bonfire site, where a huge pile of wooden pallets and tree prunings were waiting to be lit. There were also fairground rides and stalls selling hot dogs and doughnuts, a first-aid ambulance and a fire engine. Most of the town seemed to be there and we chatted to friends when we bumped into them. At 7pm the fire was lit and we watched as it gradually changed from a smoky flickering pile into an impressive conflagration which scorched our faces even from a distance. Then at 7.30pm the children's firework display began, featuring colourful but quiet fireworks. I appreciate this because our children don't like loud noises and won't stay for the traditional firework display which commenced at 8pm. I love fireworks (even noisy ones) and would be sorry to miss them. After the children's display we left to go and buy fish and chips and return home.

I love Bonfire Night. I love gathering in the dark and cold with friends and neighbours and watching the fire, it's exciting and primal. I love the Britishness of it, I like feeling connected to all the other British people celebrating in the same way on the same night, and the people who have celebrated on this night in the past . I love the way it forms a landmark in the year, everything feels different after November 5th as we enter the very last slice of the year. I love the treacle toffee and parkin and toffee apples and hot chocolate with a generous slug of booze for mum and dad. I'm so full of joie-de-vivre I even gave a pound to a couple of kids collecting a "penny for the guy" today (looked like a leftover shop-bought hallowe'en costume stuffed with newspapers to me).

9 comments:

blackberry44 said...

I love Bonfire Night too, Mel, but I've always wondered if Roman Catholics don't feel a little ambivalent about it.

Just this weekend I heard someone telling a group of Asian lads that the guy was meant to represent the Pope!

Melanie Rimmer said...

When we were growing up in Liverpool (at the time effectively a suburb of Belfast) Bonfire night was rather shunned by us Catholics. In past times the pope was burned in effigy along with Guy, I'm surprised youngsters even know that any more. But these days I think you'd be hard pressed to find a handful of people who could explain the sectarian significance of the celebration. And in Liverpool at least the sainted (or ought to be) Derek Warlock and David Shepherd did a lot to heal the tensions between the two communities.

kwilta said...

All the family went up to Parbold Hill - great vantage point - you could see for miles around all the fireworks rising in the sky. Before that we ate in the Wiggin Tree Restaurant also at the summit of Parbold Hill. Yes I did spell it correctly. This is a routine the family does each year. We love it.

Melanie Rimmer said...

I love Parbold Hill. It's the best place I know for kite flying in particular. I used to live in Skelmersdale, just up the road.

chickendancer said...

I used to like pretty fireworks, but being a wartime baby in London, I do NOT like bangs.
It was nice as a child to choose between 3 golden rains at 2d each and 2 chrysanthamums at 3d, each week, save them till Nov 5th and then watch them.
Now it's all too big, so much smoke in the air, for more than a week. People aleady buy bootled water, will bottled air be next?
Maybe I' an old spoilsport.
Mo

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