Sunday, 4 November 2007

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night is fast approaching here in the UK. Actually, it seems to be more of a Bonfire Month as fireworks have been going off regularly for over 2 weeks. One might reasonably ask "what the heck is Bonfire Night?" and as I am a reasonable person (its my blog - I can make any claim I want!) I did indeed ask the question. It is a commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot which was foiled on November 5, 1605. In a nutshell the plot was to blow up parliament with the King (James I) present in hopes of ending repression of the Catholic faith. If you want more detail see:

Guy Fawkes was a member of the plot and was caught red-handed in the cellar with the gunpowder. That's when the REAL fun starts British style. After "due process" Guy, and some of his co-conspirators were found guilty of treason and sentenced with the ever-popular "hanged, quartered, and drawn" treatment. Do your own research on this if you like - it is gruesome.

Bonfire Night (which much like many holidays and commemorations in the US is basically an excuse to party and blow stuff up) traditionally consists of parading through the streets with an effigy of Guy Fawkes followed by throwing the effigy on a huge bonfire. Entertainment for the whole family - including traditional bonfire foods!

On Saturday night Robin and I decided to head to nearby Farnham for their celebration so we could experience the spectacle in person. Of course it wasn't on the actual night and Farnham went with the fireworks show rather than the bonfire but that seems to be a popular substitute. We gathered with several hundred (thousands?) others near the town centre. Big wax torches were available for sale along with various neon glowy things. The torches were impressive - about an inch and a half thick and 18 inches long - they put out a good flame. With loads of people carrying them the heat and light were amazing. Following a pipe band (bag pipes that is) we paraded through town and up to Farnham Castle. Going up the hill was really cool cause you could see a wall of people and torches both ahead and behind. We hadn't bought tickets for the fireworks so we turned around and headed back into town. Now if there'd been a good old fashioned effigy burning on the agenda I would have been all over it but didn't feel like shelling out for a fireworks show. Still hoping that between now and the 5th I'll get to witness the "real McCoy". My part in the spectacle was along the lines of honoring the revolutionary spirit and throwing off the bonds of repression. Vive la revolution!

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