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My Guy Fawkes

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Curious how a botched attempt at revolution could give rise to thousands of jovial bonfires all over Britain. Perhaps there's a lesson there?
Image: Woodlands Junior School, Kent

For us, Guy's gunpowder, treason and plot to blow up the King and Houses of Parliament in 1605 was a brilliant excuse for fires and fireworks. When I was a boy, we always had a bonfire in our garden on the 5th of November, or in the garden of friends. Weeks before I was studying the fireworks in the two shops nearby. How many of the rockets, bangers, roman candles and little fizzing pyramids could I afford?

To raise the money, we would make a Guy, stuffing old clothing with straw or crunched up paper and sitting him by the road. The more splendid looking your Guy, the more pennies you could collect. Meanwhile, I was gathering dry wood and brush, not always so easy to find in damp November, for our bonfire.

It was a family affair. On the day, our mother made special delicious toffee in a flat tray and sometimes toffee apples. That night we put the Guy on our bonfire and our father lit it. We sang raucous songs and when the bonfire had calmed down a bit, set off fireworks and ate toffee.

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Image: East Hampshire

We also ran around with handheld sparklers. If you moved fast enough, you could write your name in the dark.

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