Posts Tagged ‘fireworks’

gunpowder plot

As I mentioned last week, allegedly many British people aren’t entirely enamored of the rigmarole surrounding Halloween and trick or treat. I hypothesize this is true, at least in part, due to the fact that they feel they have a far superior holiday just around the corner and find it annoying to have to endure an Americanized candy free-for-all before they can get to the preferred Bonfire Night.

Here’s the debate in a nutshell:


In case you don’t know the history behind this festival also known as Guy Fawkes Night, let’s get you up to speed. On November 5, 1605 there was a plot to blow up  the Houses of Parliament with the Catholic-hating King James I and all the MPs inside. I tend to rely on Horrible Histories skits like this one for the facts. (They always claim to be 100% accu-rat after all).


One of the traditions associated with this holiday is for children to make an effigy of Mr. Fawkes. Subsequently they cart it around all day beseeching adults for a “penny for the Guy” with which they plan to purchase fireworks for the evening’s festivities. In the soap opera world of  Brookside, you can find Guys of all descriptions including different genders and sexual orientations.


Food is an important part of celebrations in general, so from my research I found Yorkshire Parkin to be an oft-mentioned Bonfire Night treat. A moist oatmeal treacle cake, it sounds like a delicious autumn season recipe.


In the evening things really get exciting with an apparent homage to explosions, flames and destruction. Public fireworks displays and back garden bonfires abound in celebration of the plot’s failure to destroy the institution that is Parliament (and probably a great swath of London along with it).


Here’s where you get your say. Which do you prefer? Costume parades, carving jack-o-lanterns, haunted houses and trick or treating? How about fireworks, socially acceptable begging, autumn treats (baked potatoes, toffee apples, and sticky ginger cake) and making and burning effigies on bonfires.  Please make your voice heard on this very important cultural issue.







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Friday night I met up with a few folks from Anglophiles United – it’s what we call our support group for expats of the UK and lovers of British culture.  Eleven of us gathered to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies here:

Beef O’Brady’s – Wadsworth, Ohio

The name hints at an Irish affiliation but I doubt BBQ bacon cheeseburgers or “whole lotta steak nachos” originated on the Emerald Isle or within its general vicinity.  Several of us did enjoy a nice pint or two of “Irish” red ale.  I don’t care if it was brewed in Indiana.  It’s quite tasty.

Busted Knuckle Red, endorsed by irate leprechauns hiding in tall grass.

Cozily huddled around two scooted-together tables, we tucked into our chicken wings and fingers, veggie wraps and yes, fish and chips.  Around 8 pm it became clear that NBC Sports channel was not broadcasting the opening ceremonies, NBC’s main network was.   After pleading with the very busy staff a few times, the bartender clicked the remote, sound was finally established and we began our journey into Danny Boyle’s Isles of Wonder.

I’m sure most of you reading this watched the ceremonies yourself so I don’t plan to give a full account of the program.  My intention here is to relate my experience in watching it with a group which included a contingent of people who were born and bred in England.  Naturally, they brought to it their unique sense of humor.  For example, after the queen’s parachute “jump” one gentleman commented that it was the first time Her Majesty had gone without wearing knickers.

Advert your eyes. One should never peek up the Queen’s skirts.

They also expressed a degree of famous English cynicism.  In the tribute to the NHS, they bitingly observed that while nurses are dancing about the wards, patients are stacking up for a lengthy wait in the corridors.

All right, you lot! Where have you hidden all the bloody bed pans?

I think it’s safe to say we all delighted in Rowan Atkinson’s appearance as the notorious Mr. Bean and his Chariots of Fire daydream.  Leave it to an Oscar-winning director to insert a cinematic homage or two into the festivities.

I was disappointed they didn’t use Mr. Bean’s yellow mini in the dream sequence.

Personally, my heart was warmed by the choir of pajama-clad children singing and signing “God Save the Queen.”  Unfortunately the cameras caught Queen Elizabeth with a rather stern expression during this rendition which in turn gave rise to a swift and witty wave of royal memes:

To be fair, after 60 years the monarch may just be really sick of that particular song.

By the time the British music segment arrived, we were all getting a bit distracted and a little confused, particularly by the glowing party house. I wondered at first if we were heading into Trainspotting territory.  As the lengthy Parade of Nations got underway, we decided it was wise to make a break for it and return home in order to discover the secret identity of the final torch bearer(s) from the privacy of our own living rooms . Incidentally, when I walked in the front door, the procession of countries had only progressed to the G’s.

I would like to thank Barbara, David, Katie, Michelle, Chris, Barry, Sherry, Susan and her hubby (so sorry, I didn’t catch his name) for joining my husband Jeff and me to share in this quintessentially British experience.  I would also like to acknowledge our intrepid young waitress, Joni, for her tremendous patience and sense of humor. I doubt we could tip her well enough for all her excellent work

The following day I talked to some people who expressed their disappointment with the whole production.  I listened to their opinions and they are, of course, welcome to them.  I think it comes down to individual tastes and sensibilities.  It’s sort of like Monty Python humor, either you get it or you don’t.  I won’t speak for my expat friends, but I gathered they were happy with the overall ceremony.  In true English fashion, there was no gushing or bragging; however, I suspect they were quietly proud.

And I don’t care who you are, the fireworks were utterly awesome:


Whichever side of the pond you’re on, what was your assessment of the Isles of Wonder?

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