Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Remember remember the fifth of November...

*Fireworks at Cardiff Bay - Photograph Welsh College of Music and Drama*

"Remember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot"

Today is an historic day in the US and indeed across the world. Here in the UK, whilst many will celebrate Obama's landmark victory, this evening people will be celebrating for another reason too. Today is known variously as: the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night. Today we celebrate the foiling of a plot in 1605 by Mr Fawkes and his comrades to blow up the houses of parliament during the state opening of parliament (in order to kill the king and most of the ruling aristocracy). The plot was stopped when Guy was discovered with his barrels of explosives underneath the houses of parliament. Guy Fawkes was not the ring-leader of this group of religious dissidents, he was just the explosives expert, but he's the fella we remember.

Tonight villages and towns around the country will host packed celebrations, at the centre of which will be a bonfire where a 'guy' (a stuffed straw man made to look like Guy Fawkes) is ceremoniously burnt. Crazy catherine wheels will spin around emitting light and sparks which will leave small children agog; sparklers will be waved around in circles by gloved hands creating bright 'O's' in the gloom; and then of course there will be a fireworks display. Children will munch their way through toffee apples and people everywhere will cast their gaze skyward letting out gasps of 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the beautiful light shows taking place above their heads, momentarily oblivious to the cold night air.

If you think about it dispassionately, it is, quite frankly, a bit odd: I read this fabulously funny post by an American living in Cardiff yesterday and it did make me chuckle to read an outside perspective on the whole event. Nonetheless, 403 years on and we still mark the occasion a group of dissidents tried and failed to change the way our country was run through violence and aggression. Today America has democratically voted for change. I cannot pretend to be fully appraised of Obama's political agenda, I cannot pretend to fully understand the political implications of his appointment. But today is a first, a victory that will truly reverberate around the world. It is a message to many that what seemed impossible, even a generation ago, can become a reality. A message of hope and perseverance. Another good reason to remember the 5th of November...

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