I'm sick. Like, really really sick. I basically haven't left my bed since retiring to it at 4am on election night. And mind you, I was already sick before that - but being a history enthusiast I couldn't resist spending Tuesday night mingling with fellow Americans at The Light in Shoreditch till the wee wee hours as electoral results came through.
It was a decision that I knew at the time was foolhardy; effectively overriding my body's need for some serious R&R... but honestly, what's the neglect of a little sore throat and some mild hacking compared to witnessing something monumental unfold? Nonetheless, while I take full responsibility for the degree of my current illness, it has been nothing but sniffling, and sneezing, and coughing, and watery eyes, and just all-around yuck, ever since.
Unfortunately, my heedless commitment to election night has also subsequently meant missing another historical evening - pretty much the only widely-celebrated, uniquely British holiday that goes on in the UK: Guy Fawkes Day.
For those of you who've never heard of it (And who has? Really? Besides the British?) Guy Fawkes Day is perhaps one of the most bizarre "patriotic" holidays on record. Basically, in 1605, a group of people, including Guy Fawkes, plotted to kill King James I and blow up Parliament on November 5th. Before they could manage it, Guy was caught in the basement of Westminster Palace among kegs of gunpowder. He was then tried for treason and executed by literally being hung, drawn and quartered. (Yikes!)
Since then, each year a dummy of Mr. Fawkes is sinisterly paraded around on the date of his intended treachery, and then strung up and burned in effigy. In my experience, the burning takes place while fireworks are simultaneously shot off and Pink Floyd is played in the background. It's really all a bit eerie and disturbing. From the American perspective it sort of feels like an amalgamation of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and the Fourth of July, with the added odd element that whether Guy was actually in the wrong or not is up for debate - his group was trying to usurp the Church of England to bring Catholicism back into control - so despite all the fiendish burning, some people think he should have succeeded!
Anyway, I managed to see the plenty of the "Bonfire Night" pyrotechnics from the view of my sickbed window last night (they'll be happening across the city all week long). But just so you get the idea of what it's like up close, below are some pictures from last year's celebration in Victoria Park.
Guy Fawkes being strung up (Doesn't he look like a skeletal Thanksgiving Pilgrim?)
Big Ben: iconic of British Parliament. (Why it has been turned into a spaceship we don't know... maybe to go with the Pink Floyd anthems?)
Uh oh... there he goes again... trying to set the Houses of Parliament alight.
Moments later... Guy's just a traitorous fireball in the sky.