A Penny for the Guy?

English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, ...
English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Laing Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first moved to England I’d never heard of Guy Fawkes night. I’d never heard the little dittie that went, “Remember, remember the 5th of November…”

In high school there wasn’t a chance to take world history and despite my fascination about all things English, if it didn’t appear in a Sherlock Holmes book, I didn’t know about it.

I moved to England on the 5th of July 1982. I lived on the air base until September that year. I finally got permission to move off base after they realised that I was getting to stay in the base dormitories for free. As I was divorced my money towards housing –which went straight to my divorced wife and baby– could not be taken in exchange for my room. I’m pretty sure that the base housing folks were glad to see the back of me.

I moved off base and about the middle of October I started seeing kids in the village  carting a straw filled dummy around on a wagon. Other kids would carry their strawman and once they had found a vacant spot on the pavement (that’s sidewalk to you and me) they would lay a rag or put a pail out and beseech passers-by for, “A penny for the Guy?”

I had just gotten over the shock of realising that English kids didn’t know about Halloween, or at least very much about it, and hadn’t learned about trick or treating to a great extent. I hasten to add that has changed, although they still aren’t as dedicated to it as American kids are.

I asked in the pub why the kids were asking for a penny for the guy. I then learned about Guy Fawkes night and the celebration of it.

Lewes Bonfire, Guy Fawkes effigy

Guy Fawkes was the man who decided it would be a jolly good idea to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in 1605.  Now Fawkes was not alone in this dastardly deed. He was part of a group of zealous men whose assassination attempt became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

The entire plot was uncovered and foiled by the authorities. Guy Fawkes –as well as many of his zealous friends– was hung for his troubles. I don’t know when Guy Fawkes night, or bonfire night as it’s more popularly known, began but there is a little dittie that was sung back in 1742 about the whole escapade.

Don’t you Remember,
The Fifth of November,
‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,
I let off my gun,
And made’em all run.
And Stole all their Bonfire away. (1742)[48]

*courtesy of wikipedia*

All I do know is that on the 5th of November they used to burn poor old Guy Fawkes in effigy on a  huge bonfire. This was generally accompanied by fireworks. Each village would, and still does, build a huge bonfire and set off fireworks as part of the celebration.

Children would make up their straw representations of Guy Fawkes and beg for coppers (pennies) to buy fireworks with. This custom has sort of died out over the years. I haven’t seen a “Guy” on a bonfire for years and I definitely haven’t seen children making the effigy of him to be burned.

Each year though villages, towns, and cities across the country hold celebrations that include bonfires, fireworks and stalls selling food. The smaller the village the smaller the celebrations. Ipswich holds a grand fireworks display and a bonfire of epic proportions each year, usually on the first weekend nearest the actual date.

I haven’t been to a bonfire night in years, but I do admit I miss the kids dragging their “Guy” through the village and asking for that, “Penny for the Guy?”

As I set here at home and listen to the fireworks being shot off all around me, I can’t help but wonder where the actual traditional tone went and what the future will be for Guy Fawkes day. It seems to me to have lost a lot of it’s original meaning when they dispensed with the burning of the effigy.

It just seems like another “official” reason to set off bangers (firecrackers) and skyrockets. I suppose that setting them off for New Years just isn’t enough.

Guy Fawkes Night
Guy Fawkes Night (Photo credit: Mike_fleming)

For ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ Thanks

The King of the Hoodies.

It has now been 44 days or one month and two weeks since my heart attack and the two subsequent surgeries (one of which was an emergency surgery) that saved me from taking a prolonged vacation with that king of all ‘hoodies‘ the big Grim Reaper.

Wow.

In many ways it seems like a lifetime ago and in others ways it does seem like 44 days. I know that I am recovering incredibly well, everyone is telling me so. My scars (quite impressive if I do say so myself, 9 inches on my chest and 12 inches on my right calf) are fading quickly and no longer itch as much.

I can walk a little bit further each day without my traitorous back seizing up and today I actually went into the town centre and traipsed up and down the High Street. Although I was not able to do too much gallivanting about, I did have to stop occasionally and stretch my back and butt muscles. I only limped a little bit and in the area of breathing and heart rate, I don’t think I did too badly at all. No breathless episodes and my heart didn’t feel like it was going to come leaping out of my chest.

All in all, a good first shopping day out.

I am still learning to curb my natural inclination towards impatience and feel that I’m not doing too badly. My first ‘follow-on’ appointment with the surgeon is on the 17th and I will be driving the almost 2 hour drive to the hospital myself. On the first of November I’ll have my initial ‘fitness’ assessment and I will finally learn what I can and cannot do and how to get my self and my heart back into shape.

There are other tests and assessments scheduled as well, like cholesterol and the like, but everything is going pretty smoothly and I am not inclined to rush any part of the process. I’m even going to have a ‘flu jab‘ this year. I have never liked the flu shot. When I was in the USAF each year I had the damn thing (in the Air Force it was mandatory, you had to have it) I invariably got some sort of chest cold that lasted for months.

This nasty experience has led me to turn down all offers of flu jabs full stop. But in keeping with my new healthier mindset I’ve agreed to having the jab in two weeks time.

I am learning to make healthier meals. Meg and I made our first turkey mince chilli the other night. While it was not a blazing success, it was not inedible and as we cautiously picked our way through it, we saw how it could be improved with the addition of various spices and the odd herb or two.

Turkey chilli from leanonturkey.co.uk

It will never taste as good as the ‘real thing’ but it’ll do. I had thought very briefly about making chilli using Quorn. The moment I saw the price of this ‘meat substitute‘ I began to think the stuff had a solid gold base. Price prohibitive to the nth degree, I doubt that I’ll ever be using that stuff as a substitute for anything. I’m sure that some of the Quorn products aren’t that expensive, but the mince is obscenely overpriced.

We have a recipe for a winter vegetable lasagna that, despite having the horrible white sauce that the English insist on putting in every Italian dish instead of cheese, looks and sounds quite yummy. There are chilli recipes on websites that sound tasty, although the one I just looked at had celery in it and no mushrooms, but I will be adapting the ones that sound the best sans celery.

The lovely Marilyn over at Serendipity gave me some wonderful suggestions on food ideas after my blog post on the blandness of my new diet. She pointed out that spice is our friend and that sushi and sashimi were not only healthy but tasty as well. I do like sushi and although I never actually thought of preparing it at home, Meg (who also likes sushi) said we’d “give it a go” as soon as we find some recipes.

So there we go. It’s all stations full steam ahead. I’ve been incredibly lucky, I think. I was talking to my mother the other day and she told me that her father (my grandfather) had died age 52 of a massive coronary caused by his leaky aorta aka the  widow maker.

I still think I have a hard time realizing just how close I came to taking a “dirt nap” and not being part of this wonderfully exasperating world. When I left the hospital, they told me to expect it to all sink in later. “Most likely,” they said, “It will be when you least expect it. Some people go home and burst into tears when they walk through their front door. Just don’t be surprised when it happens.”

Well it hasn’t happened yet. I suppose I’ve still got too many plates spinning up in the air. Of course there is the possibility it will never ‘sink in’ as they put it. I might go through the remainder of my life blissfully unaware of just how close it was (and according to the experts it was very close) and that would suit me fine.

I’ve had my warning shot and I may not get another one. I consider myself very, very lucky. I just hope I can do something to justify this extra time I’ve been granted.

Your time starts…Now!