Friday, November 5, 2010

Remembering Guy Fawkes Day

This morning I awoke to discover it is, once again, Guy Fawkes Day.  No, I don't celebrate it any longer, but I ALWAYS remember it -- every November 5th takes me back to the "Penny for the Guy" days.  Below is a post I wrote on the subject, now three years ago ... I can hardly believe I have been blogging for more than four years, but so I have!

I have no photos of those days, those preparations by children all over England in the late 60's and early 70's, but in my mind, they are as clear today as if I were still wheeling that Guy around in the barrow.

A single little scarecrow reminded me

On my drive to No VA yesterday, I passed a roadside market, where produce from the owner’s farm is sold. They had erected a healthy looking scarecrow, I think more as an attraction to potential customers than as a real deterrent to crows. Nevertheless, his happy face brought back a memory I thought I’d share.

When I was 10 years old we moved to Cheltenham, England. I have a scrapbook of those years in my brain as vivid as if I could physically turn the pages and touch the pictures themselves. One such picture is of the new freedom my mother enjoyed. Since the public transportation was so fantastic, my mother, who did not have a car to drive, was able to get all over town and had quite a good time doing so. One thing she liked to do was go to auctions.

Now, my mother was not what I would consider a “savvy” auction-goer. But she did come home with some real “finds.” One such find was a piano, which I believe she won for about eight pounds! (I think it cost more to have it delivered than she paid for it, but that is another story.)

Well, the piano tuner came out and kindly assured my mother she would be wasting her money and his time should she pay him to tune it. The felts were shot and it could not be brought into tune. No problem, this was not the first of such auction finds for which Mom had to find another purpose.

About this time in England, we were approaching the legendary Guy Fawkes Day, and we children, oblivious to Mom’s piano plight, were busily constructing our “Guy” for that year. The Guy was constructed much like a scarecrow, taking an old pair of pants and a man’s shirt, stuffing them with straw and paper to make the body and head which we topped with an old hat. With our Guy properly constructed, we loaded him into the wheelbarrow and began our “collection” for the firecrackers we would use on Guy Fawkes Day. “Penny for the Guy, Penny for the Guy” we called as we wheeled our creation past others on the walkway. Pennies and such were tossed into our wheelbarrow, and we were thrilled!

When Guy Fawkes Day arrived, we helped build the big bonfire onto which the Guy would be ceremoniously tossed at just the right moment, as we set off our purchased firecrackers. Out of the garage and house we dragged all the auction “finds” that Mom had discovered were just so much junk. The pile this particular year was huge, as it had as its focal point, the piano.

When dusk fell, we, the six kids, supervised by our parents, and in concert with neighbor families performing similar rituals in their “gardens”, danced around with excitement as we watched the Guy’s funeral pyre reach optimum proportion. Then, with glee, we flung that wretched Guy atop the flames and set our firecrackers off (symbolic of Guy Fawkes’ attempt to burn down Parliament.)

Though this was not the first year we had enjoyed this holiday with our British friends, it was the first year that we enjoyed such a musical and explosive rendition of the event. For, as that piano burned, the piano strings sang and then, with reports greater than our purchased firecrackers, exploded as they broke free of their pegs! I will never forget the sound of a piano burning. Even as it seemed a little sad that an old instrument had met such demise, I always thought how wonderful it was that it went out with such a bang! And, to think, a single little scarecrow reminded me….


Sharon said...

I had never heard of Guy Fawkes Day until recently, here on the blogs and I wondered exactly what the deal was. (Too lazy to try to look it up, don't you know) How interesting - I'll bet the city was smoky that night and cannot imagine your glee when the piano "sang" as it was burning! What a wonderful memory, thanks for sharing!

Judy's Corner said...

Hi Sharon,
I had never heard of it until I moved to England. However, it was a lot of fun children and we were determined to have FUN!!!

Of course, Mom's auction-going self offered us a lot of opportunities for fun over those years in England. We definitely had some adventures.

mixednut555 said...

I remember reading this when you posted it on the blogs. I can "see and hear" that piano, what a cool memory to have.
WV: adagund

Judy's Corner said...


Can you believe I originally posted this 3 years ago??? Hard to believe we've been blogging that long, eh?