Saturday, 6 November 2010

Remember, Remember.....

I realise today, a whole day late, that this year, the first year in fifteen, that I have forgotten to recall Guy Fawkes Night.

The 5th of November.

Bonfire Night.

I grew up in the UK. A country that remembers the Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament with thirty six barrels of gunpowder, in order to kill the King of the time - James 1st.

Guy Fawkes was one of a gang of traitors, and he was the one who was caught, in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament, with thirty six barrels of gunpowder.

On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight through London, to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

All this went on in 1605. Over 400 years ago. Imagine.

I grew up in the UK, where November is winter. Cold night air, bonfires and layers of clothes to keep warm.

The smell of woodsmoke, the promise of celebration. This hiss of fireworks. The gasping cold against cheeks. The excitement of being up and out so late. The intake of cold air into lungs, at the surprise and wonder of the fires. The smell of browning sugar from the making of treacle toffee.

The stamping of cold feet and the vision of breath leaving warm bodies in puffs and clouds into the chilly air. Children running, faces turned to the sky.

The crackle of fire. The high pitched squeals. The camaraderie. The changing light of darkness: of a night lit by fires.

And I forgot.

I am finding it harder and harder to recall the traditions and senses that I associate with England
and my childhood and my youth.

I do not know if this scares me or reassures me.


  1. Fawke me? No, Fawke you!

    Sorry, that was uncalled for...

  2. Lucy, if it makes you feel any better, it's a rotten night here, pouring on and off with rain and there's not much fireworks around our area. I hope tomorrow night will be slightly better for our local bonfire.


  3. Yes it's a cold wet night here. My two year old keeps saying 'what's that noise?' and jumping.

    My son and husband have gone to the famous Lewes parade where the';ll probably burn an effigy of our current Prime Minister.

    Happy Bonfire Night to you!

  4. Oh don't! Now I am feeling even more nostalgic. Lewes? Is it still huge on Bonfire night? We went there every year.

  5. Posie PatchworkNovember 06, 2010

    My mummy is English & we grew up with a bon fire for Guy Fawkes too. Part of my childhood in Australia!! Love Posie

  6. I'm not English but i will be marking the 5th of November for the rest if my life.... its one year til i get married so 5th Nov will be my wedding anniversary! And i knew that poem you posted... its on the start of a movie called " V for Vendetta ", which is about a masked vigilante overthrowing a corrupt UK government on that date...

  7. Louisa CowanNovember 06, 2010

    I love bonfire night and I'm missing it this year. I remember there always being great food! Hotdogs and jacket potatoes wrapped in tin foil - yummy!

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  9. Andrea (Revealing the Real Me)November 06, 2010

    It was fawkin' funny though Jack!!

  10. I'm not remotely English [but being a pasty white girl in australia my ancestors may have been] but I learned about Guy Fawkes when I was pretty young and the little town I lived in as a teenager always celebrated Guy Fawkes night, just bc they could!

    Its interesting, I learned about Guy Fawkes being bad bc he was a traitor - but for some reason I learnt about Cromwell being good? My reading of it as an adult doesn't seem to gel with that bc James wasn't particularly good, and Cromwell was a wanker quite frankly. I guess whether you're a hero or villain just depends on whose side you're on. What if he'd been successful? I wonder what would have happened to his memory then?

  11. Guy Fawkes was commemorated here still when I was a kid. Also it is my Parents and Grandparents wedding anniversary. And I don't know how many times I heard as a kid how Mum and Dad got married on Guy Fawkes day......
    Seriously, I'd rather follow that tradition than the Halloween one that is consuming our country.

  12. We used to celebrate Guy Fawkes night as well but neither crackers nor bonfires are allowed in our PC world anymore. Of course that means more kids have their fingers but less fun.


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