Thursday, 5 November 2009

Whatever Happened to Guy Fawkes?

Here is a seasonal tale from my childhood. I've dragged this old chestnut out three times now in various places, but have some new friends who may like it. Speaking of chestnuts, where have the street chestnut sellers gone? Roasted chestnuts in brown paper bags were so amazing! So, on with the story...

We didn't celebrate Halloween in the UK when I was young. At this time of year all of the kids were excited about the 5th of November, bonfire night. A celebration of British history, when Guido Fawkes failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament. You may have seen the fantastic film, 'V for Vendetta', which takes it's inspiration from this tale.

Walking home from school, it was dark and cold already, you'd see kids huddled up in doorways with their homemade effigies of Mr Fawkes. Young cockney voices calling out 'penny for the guy!' My dad always gave them a few bob when I was little. As I got older they started buying cigarettes instead of fireworks; when my dad realised that he stopped giving.

So on the 5th of November, whether it was dry or pouring with rain, the sky lit up with amazing colours. I loved it! We lived in Stepney Green Dwellings which were ancient red brick, spooky flats. My dad always bought sparklers which we lit on the balcony. I still remember their smell and the bright, flickering lights.

I can't leave out the toffee apple man, who came around the back of the Dwellings with a cart full of delicious red and orange toffee apples. I don't remember him ever speaking; maybe he didn't?

It's all gone now, my dear dad, the kids calling out and the guys. Fireworks are usually only seen at organised displays and I can't chomp those delicious, sticky apples anymore because of MND. Red was my favourite....

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...


  1. What a great post! I've been wondering all day what Guy Fawkes Day is and now I know. What great memories!
    By the way- they still sell roasted chesnuts on the streets of new York City during the holidays. I'll think of you next time I smell them. xo

  2. What a lovely little blog! I enjoyed it so much! GREAT photo! Thanks Sarah!

  3. Great post, I learned something about British history. I never heard of a day being celebrated because something didn't happen.

    When you look at that pic of you and your dad, it's almost like we have lived here on Earth with many different lives, so far apart from then to know yet of thread of continuity that gives everything meaning and purpose.

    Keep on sharing :>)LΩ∇Σ ◈•*¨`*♥*•.

  4. Sue Fieldah those toffee apples. worth losing a filling for!
    yes the lead up to november 5th drew us almost to the point of magical hysteria.
    you mention 'v for vendetta'. my memories from the late 50's were that we all wore a mask made from paper pulp, usually yellow or green, with a little beard, so that the wearer became guy fawkes. i remember when dad ... Read morewore one to light the catherine wheels (interesting reference there too to st catherine) and we would run around in delighted half terror! oh happy days

  5. Fawkes, although weakened by torture, cheated the executioners: when he was to be hanged until almost dead, he jumped from the gallows, breaking his neck and killing himself, thus avoiding the gruesome latter part of his execution.[

  6. I live at Stepney Green Dwellings now. (It's since been re-named Stepney Green Court. I moved here in 1984 ( I suppose many years after you . . . ) but the photo taken of you in your dads arms - looks like a familiar part of our flats. lEAVE A MESSAGE below - if you'd like some up to date photos of the "red bricked spooky flats" They're still red bricked ( well - a kind of orange brick !!) but they're not spooky !! LOL ! !!! Carol

  7. I'd love some photos Carol, thanks!

  8. I lived in the Dwellings till 1976. I vaguely remember the Ezekiel boys - who went to Stepney Jewish next door - where are they now?