Thursday, 4 November 2010

Flames, Fireworks and a "Penny for the Guy"!

"Remember, remember the Third of November..." could have been our cry as Porter's Primary staged the first annual Guy Fawkes' Night in Neilburg! Although we celebrated two days early, excitement reigned and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Of course, the first step was to get prepared -- and that meant creating a "Guy."  Alisdair used some paper plates to make a "head" and then I found some old clothes that would be no sacrifice to burn.  He helped me sew the arms and legs shut and attach the bottom of the shirt to the waistband of the trousers.  Both children assisted with stuffing crumpled up newspaper into our "Guy" (which Isobel called "a little man.")

Stuffing the Legs

"Bottoms Up!"

Almost Finished
Once the "stuffing" was completed, we stapled the neckline of the t-shirt shut and then stapled (and taped) the "head" to the "body."  When "Uncle Guy" was done, John told us he had already put a metal stake in the middle of the backyard fire pit and that we should tie him to it.  He gave us a piece of yellow nylon rope to use.  Soon, "Uncle Guy" was standing guard, waiting until darkness would fall upon our corner of the world.

Awaiting nightfall
A final portrait

Guy and the Children
At last we were ready - the potatoes scrubbed and wrapped in aluminium foil; the venison sausage fried and eaten like hotdogs; and the fireworks in the car waiting for the trip to the lake.

The children sat in plastic lawn chairs as John stood by, waiting for the signal to light the pyre. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the first annual Porter's Primary Guy Fawkes' Night," I began, as John snickered quietly next to me.  The children were perched on the edge of their seats, knowing what was going to transpire in a few seconds.

I began to read one of several traditional rhymes that usually accompanies this type of festivity:

"Remember, remember the Fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and Plot..." and then Alisdair chimed in for the sentence:  "I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot."

Then I read the rest of the poem:

"Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
A traitor to the Crown by his action
No Parli'ment mercy from any faction,
His just end should'st be grim,
What should we do?  Burn him!
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring,
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!"

... and at that, John took a burning piece of board and tossed it into the fire pit.  Thanks to his "special mixture" of chemicals splashed on the wood earlier, the fire began instantly.  If only I had been prepared with the camera as it was a magnificent sight - for an instant - with flames licking up both sides of the fire pit and both legs of the effigy, before he was consumed.

The nylon rope soon melted and Guy fell forward, with his face leaning over the edge of the fire pit.

Guy - slumped forward
Safety first
Flames dying down
John was "at the ready" with his trusty shovel to pick up any loose bits that had fallen outside the ring of fire and place them safely back within the confines of the pit.

We sat and watched the fire, for a little while.  As the flames died down, we took the prepared potatoes and put them in the fire.  I was unsure what would happen to them, but since I'd read this was a Guy Fawkes' Night tradition, we thought we would try it.

Since it would take a while for the potatoes to bake, we got into the old gold stationwagon and headed for the nearby lake (about six miles away).

It was time for the fireworks!

Not wanting to spend a small fortune on fireworks, we had settled on an assorted package for $18.99.  It contained:

a tube of Purple Flying Fishes; a silver palm tree; a snowstorm, an original air bomb, a silver moon wheel, six mini air bombs and ten sparklers.

The children stood on the right side of the car.  John took each firework, individually, down on the left side of the beach, planted them in the sand and lit them.  I was the light controller -- turning the headlights on so John could see to safely light the fireworks and then quickly switching them off, when it was beginning to explode.
Sparklers at the beach
It didn't take long to go through our small supply of explosives!  But it was a bit chilly and none of us were sorry to get back into the warm car and return home to the waiting potatoes.

Isobel "helping" retrieve the potatoes from the firepit

Out of the fire
Potatoes and hot coals
During the proceedings Isobel had excitedly exclaimed, "This is how to spend a night!"  Later, John and Isobel had gone inside and Alisdair was left in front of the fire, with his bowl of baked potato.  "This is nice," he said, "Just you and me, the fire and my potato!"  And then he smiled and said, "Mum.... you said this was the FIRST ANNUAL Porter's Primary Guy Fawkes' Night!"  I had to admit, he'd gotten me there -- that was what I HAD said.  It WAS fun - and, who knows, if there is no snow on the ground next November, it might not take too much persuasion to host the second annual event! 

Thank you, Guy Fawkes, for a "Night to Remember," 405 years after your gunpowder plot was foiled!

(Incidentally - we learned that the gunpowder in Guy Fawkes' barrels was actually degraded and would not have had the intended result of blowing up the Houses of Parliament.  Experts figure the powder would only have made a bit of a splutter.  Yet his actions cost Guy Fawkes his life.) 

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