Remember, remember the fifth of November ... →
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, twas his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England's overthrow.
By God's mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and lighted match.
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King.
Today is Guy Fawkes Day
in Britain, otherwise known as Bonfire Night. Guy Fawkes conspired with others to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but was caught and executed.
In memory of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot, on 5th November all over England bonfires are lit and fireworks set off. Traditionally an effigy of Guy Fawkes is put on top of the bonfire, although he wasn't actually burned to death, I believe he was hanged, drawn and quartered.
When I was a kid, children used to sit with their guys
- usually an old pair of jeans and a sweather stuffed with rolled-up newspaper, with a mask and a hat - outside the local shops and ask for 'a penny for the guy'. The money would be spent on sparklers, or bonfire toffee
It seems that 'penny for the guy' has been usurped by the dastardly American habit of trick or treating instead. I'm sad about that, it's a uniquely British thing that shouldn't be allowed to die out.
Fireworks are horribly expensive these days, and £30 will buy a tiny box that lasts about five minutes. But local councils put on big displays, charging £5 or thereabouts, so it's much better value, and much safer, to attend a big display, although probably not as much fun as having a little firework party in your back yard.
It's a horrible time for pets though. It seems that since I was a kid fireworks have got much louder. There used to be only one brand available - Standard ("Light up the sky with Standard Fireworks" went the jingle) - but now there are all sorts of Chinese fireworks of varying degrees of loudness, colour and safety/deadliness.
Children are not allowed to buy fireworks, but they still manage to get them and every year kids are burned or lose fingers. The most serious injuries are where boys put fireworks in their trouser pockets ... oy, oy, oy ...
I used to love Bonfire Night when I was a kid. We never had a bonfire, our yard was too small, but we would usually have a few fireworks, Bengal matches
, and baked potatoes, toffee apples and bonfire toffee to eat. It's one of the few happy memories of my childhood, writing my name in the darkness with a sparkler.