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Guy Fawkes Day


I still remember the first time Aria experienced fireworks. It was the 4th of July in India and we were celebrating with some American students. Aria(who was just shy of a year old) responded to the bright flashes and violent explosions of the massive Indian fireworks with screams of terror. I took her inside where the bangs were fairly muffled and she quickly calmed down. That was the first and last time she experienced fireworks.

Fast-forward almost a year and a half to chilly November in Scotland. For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been seeing signs up to buy fireworks. I kind of assumed that it was for Halloween as I knew of no other near holiday. But the 31st came and went; however, the signs stayed up. Then, a couple of days ago, John came home to tell me that the 5th of November is Guy Fawkes Day. “Who’s he?” I asked. Apparently, in the 19th century, this infamous man conspired to blow up the Parliament Buildings in London. The plan failed and the unfortunate man, along with his co-conspirators, were hung and then cut into pieces—nasty business. And this is what we celebrate—the condemned Guy Fawkes. In the U.S. and Canada we use fireworks to celebrate independence; here in the UK we use them to mark the life of a suicide bomber. Okay, not quite, but he did try to blow up Parliament after all—an odd public holiday, if you ask me.

Well, most of the peeps from our church were going to nearby Seed Hill to watch the fireworks, but John’s friend, Big John, invited us to watch them from his apartment. He lives on the top floor of one of the few high rises in Paisley. John had visited there before and said that the view was amazing—one can see all the way to Glasgow.

So, as the dark night grew darker and bitterly cold, we hurried from our car to the apartment building, thankful that we wouldn’t have to remain in the brisk wind. The high rise is mostly Council housing (low-income, government-sponsored housing) and the sign in the square, metal elevator reflected the fact—it stated that the person(s) spitting in the elevator needed to stop or else! And the building had a smell that was new to me. We took the slow elevator to the 16th floor, went through a couple of doors, took the stairwell to the 17th floor and went through another little maze until we arrived in Big John’s studio flat—a cozy bachelor’s nest above the world. His living room windows were wide open and the whole horizon to the east was displayed before us. Bright sparkling lights of all colours were erupting continuously from two or three dozen locations: city parks, the street, and private back yards. We could even see the large firework show in Glasgow’s city park away in the distance. Adding to the charged air was the occasional sound of firetrucks roaring off to answer some call. Aria stood on a chair by the window and took it all in.

It was a sight to behold.

Note: An Englishman just told me that Guy Fawkes was actually burnt at the stake (as well as the other things) and it is traditional to put a dummy (called a “guy”) into the middle of your bombfire. Gruesome traditions, eh?!

2 Responses to “Guy Fawkes Day”

  1. Jayne
    November 13th, 2007 01:59

    Gotta love the Scotish they are an unusal breed!!

  2. Cari Dugan
    November 19th, 2007 21:07

    The sign in the elevator is the same sign that hung in our old apartment’s laundry room! Except this sign wasn’t even spelled correctly!

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