Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Today is Guy Fawkes Day in England -- which is traditionally celebrated with a huge bonfire, fireworks, and, of course, drinking.  Why?  Well, according to Wikipedia:
Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure.
Seems like kind of an odd thing to celebrate with so much hoopla.  It's not quite the same thing, but it would be like holding a big celebration every year on March 30 to commemorate John Hinckley's failed assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan -- and called it John Hinckley Day.  But why quibble when you can join in the fun?  My neighbor mentioned that they would be having a big fireworks display at Wimbledon Park on Friday, November 4, so we put it on the calendar.

When we woke up that morning, it was POURING rain, so it wasn't looking good for an evening of bonfires and fireworks, but it cleared up during the day and turned out to be a quite pleasant evening.  By the time Josh got home from work and we walked up to the park (and found the entrance), they had already lit the bonfire, which was so big that they fenced off a HUGE area around it.
The bonfire
Bonfire close-up
They announced that they had to sort something out with Air Traffic Control before the fireworks could begin.  Really?  They did think to do that in advance?  So we had time to grab a bite to eat.  There were plenty of food stalls, but they were all selling essentially the same things -- burgers, hot dogs, and -- oddly enough -- roast turkey and stuffing sandwiches.  None if it was very good, but we hadn't come for the food.
It is a day of thanksgiving, after all...
While we were eating, they announced that the fireworks were about to begin, so we found a spot near the bonfire -- well, near the fence around the bonfire -- to watch.  The theme was supposed to be "Best of Britain," which I guess referred to the accompanying music.  To us it sounded like someone had just turned on a radio and pressed the "scan" button.  I would have preferred something a little less haphazard, especially since they charged us £7 each to enter the park.  The fireworks themselves were certainly not on par with what we are used to seeing in Washington DC on the 5th of July, but they were still pretty good, and lasted about 20 minutes.
Fireworks, bonfire, and the moon
There was also a funfair (carnival) set up in the park, but having spent most of our cash on the entrance fee and food, we decided to skip it and walk back home. 
We saw a few small backyard firework shows on our way home, and I'm sure we'll see many, many more tonight.  There is a store that sells fireworks about 3 blocks from our house, so people have been setting them off in our neighborhood for the past two weeks (some were for Diwali, I suspect).  I'm sure people have stocked up for their "Bonfire Night" parties.  In fact someone directly behind us is setting off fireworks while I'm typing this.  I never thought I'd say this, but I think could use a break from fireworks after this.

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