Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I know no reason, why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot…
so says the rhyme, and all throughout Britain over this past week-end, many firework displays have been enjoyed, especially during the nice weather which has favoured us.
Forgive a nostalgia session: I remember when ‘Bonfire night’ meant just that. Families, friends and neighbours, gathering together around a modest fire of old furniture, bits of gathered wood and other things (not old tires… they smell dreadful!) topped by a ‘straw’ figure of Guy Fawkes created with a mixture of Dad’s old trousers, a too small, overly worn school jacket and perhaps a cap, a head made of newspaper stuffed into an old pillowcase, and miscellaneous other items hobbled together. In my day it was beginning to be frowned upon to actually use Guy to beg for coins, but sometimes he would be proudly displayed a couple of days before the event, just for fun. Fireworks would be chosen carefully, rockets, bangers, catherine wheels, roman candles and other tantalising names of surprise packages all guaranteed to delight and entertain in lights, whizzes and bangs and explosions against the back drop of the chill November sky.
The party would be made complete, of course, by food. Jacket potatoes baked in the fire, sausages, cups of steaming hot chocolate, gingerbread and of course the special, bonfire toffee, a hard, sugary, treacly, jaw breaking, tooth rotting confection that should be made illegal, but thankfully wasn’t in my day.
Memories of the glorious evening would linger in the air the next morning in that peculiar smell of smoke laced with gunpowder and charred vegetation. If you were lucky there were a couple of empty firework shells and rockets lying around; ones to open up, empty out the remaining explosive into one final pile of colour and fizz when lit. If not, then perhaps a stray unlit sparkler could be enjoyed as a finale to this grandest of all nights.
In our health and safety conscious modern times bonfires are rare, and families tend to attend community events providing firework displays. Whilst understanding the benefit of these, I cannot let go of that joy of holding a firework in your hand and letting its magic delight for a second or two. Sparklers ready, here I go.
But what, exactly, are we remembering? Simply put, the gunpowder plot was devised by a group of Catholics in defiance of James 1 of England, realising that his succession to the throne did not make life for Catholics any easier. However their plan to blow up the House of Lords, cause a Catholic revolt and place Princess Elizabeth on the throne, fizzled out due to leaked information and all the instigators were caught and hanged for treason.
Such was the importance of this event that on the first anniversary of the plot, a holiday was declared and bonfires were made and church bells rang out to declare the day festive. It is no longer an actual bank holiday (repealed 1859) but we Brits do love a gory story, a sense of fun, and any excuse to party.
Many years on, of course, November is now linked with Remembrance Day. A more serious reflection of past horrors and a fight for rights. My posts this week will lead up to November 11th with this as a theme. So, I close with a more thoughtful tone.
This work was included on my spotify list this week, and I am amazed that I had not ‘discovered’ it before; I think it serves as a good introduction to a global call to peace and understanding.
Follow the link to read some excellent research concerning this text and its history, and enjoy the reflective music.
Go in peace and love and connect with your inner quiet thoughts.