…to blow up king and parliament

An age old celebration – but what’s really going on? 

The day – the night – is here.
The children hold their guys high, lovingly made ready for this moment over the last days. Their creators raided their mothers’ store rooms for rags, begged trousers and shirts from willing fathers, and competed with each other for who has painted the most expressive face or whose guy is the best dressed. As each was finished, it was bound to a pole and carried through the village, its proud owner begging for a penny for some noble cause.
The children laugh and jiggle, guys bobbing, excitement bubbling.
The mayor, magnificent in gilded chain and scarlet robes, takes up a flaming torch and thrusts it deep into the great bonfire.

Day by day the children had watched the bonfire grow on the village green. The moment school was out they were there, measuring the progress since yesterday. Men and women toiled to steadily build the familiar shape, taller and taller. They scooped great armfuls of furze and brush culled from the forest and set it in place, layer upon layer. Long leafless branches, left to dry in barns and sheds all year, were delivered to the green in farmers’ wagons, and piled around like a sloping stockade.

The villagers cheer as the flames leap, devouring the furze, the brush, turning the dried out branches to glowing rods of gold and red to outshine the mayor’s effulgent costume.

They parade with their guys, around and around the fiery heap, laughing and chanting – Remember, remember, the fifth of November. The grownups weave among them, singing. The children shout in their excitement.
Parents and teachers have told the story over and over: the planning and plotting, the secrets which had to be kept close, the names of those who had to be bribed and those who joined willingly. They have told about the rain filling the filthy puddles of London that chill night, the soft-footed creeping through the lightless passages, capture and torture possible at every turn, the setting of the fuses …
The children never tire of hearing the tale of the first Fifth of November.

Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent To blow up king and parliament.

They cheer the loudest, clapping, guys waving, when the flimsy model of the old parliament building sitting atop the fire roars into flame. It burns, brighter, brighter, before collapsing into the coals with a whump!

The people dance in the firelight glow and gives thanks to that first Guy – the valiant man who saved them all those years ago from the venal corruption of parliament and the sinful waste of monarchy.

Read more short stories here (and listen to some too).
And for my non UK/Aus friends, here’s what it’s all about.

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