Guy, guy, guy,
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die.
British Children’s Nursery Rhyme
Children can be so cruel.
The smell of sulphur, carbon and potassium nitrate permeates your lungs … a smokey haze descends plying your clothes with grit … there must be reason for all of this skulduggary.
Ahh … yes, pop on your bonny prince charlies, ladies and esquires, for it shall be the eve of Guy Fawkes, named thusly to remark on the occasion when said Mr Fawkes gathered up his band o’ merry grumpy men and plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament including HRH King James I who just happened to stop by for a spot of tea and scones in 1605. Of course, Fawkes and his band o’ merry grumpy men made a bollox of it, and their plot was foiled. Fawkes and his band o’ merry grumpy men were made even grumpier by being hung, drawn and quartered for their troubles. See, you could never trust a Stuart, it would seem. Throughout the land it was decreed by fiat that much mirth and celebration would be had that King James would continue drinking tea and eating scones, signified by the lighting of bonfires.
Welcome, smurfs and smurfettes to Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, or as we like to say in my country Cracker Night. Ahh yes, Cracker Night in Australia … such a long forgotten memory. These Gen Y’s wouldn’t have a clue what I am talking about. Fireworks (or Firecrackers – short version Cracker) were banned in private use in Australia in the 1970’s all becasue one to two little kiddies got their hands and clothing blown up by the mistreatment of the Cracker. These glory days of lighting a cracker in the backyard then running screaming to the safety of your parents and waiting with such anticipation for it to explode into life. Or the disappointment of a dud that didn’t or fell over (the spirit captured beautifully in Glendyn Ivin’s 2003 short film Cracker Bag). Thems were the days. But the government knows that we Australians can’t be trusted with a bit of gunpowder wrapped in paper held in our possession.
The Hindu neighbours have even jumped on the bandwagon, coinciding it with their Diwali celebrations, with a nightly fireworks display in their backyard. Fortunately for them, the United Kingdom is not so strict with their Fireworks laws and public safety. So blowing up a small child’s hand or face is purely a matter of personal taste. So night after night, as I settle in for a mash up of Master Chef Professionals, suddenly bang goes the neighbours and the sulphurous green and white lights come streaming through my window.
So tonight, Londoners will huddle together in public places or in their little backyards in the chill of the evening to ooh and ahh that their monarch lives becasue the fireworks tells them so. England will celebrate as HRH Queen Elizabeth II, fourteen or so generations on, sleeps soundly in her bed or has nipped out for a night at the theatre, all because her Stuart relatives weren’t blown up by buckets of sulphur, carbon and potassium nitrate. Yes fireworks will explode and emblazon the sky to symbolise that bad old Guy Fawkes didn’t get to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Not unlike a rabbit that creeps into your house at night and leaves little chocolate eggs symbolising the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Or a fat man the breaks into people’s houses and gives them gifts that they didn’t really want because he has judged them to be nice and not naughty then drinks their brandy and feeds their carrots to his enslaved raindeer, clearly symbolising the birth of a baby in a rat infested, dung covered stable in Bethlehem.
Traditional is after all tradition.
Now, where did I put my dreidel and my Yatzeeh board?