Gun­pow­der trea­son, we’ve lost the plot

The Northern Advocate - - Opinion - By Roger Moroney

Ihave al­ways been in­trigued by the no­tion of Guy Fawkes, that an­nual cel­e­bra­tory event for the re­tail­ers of fire­works where peo­ple pur­sue the odd no­tion of see­ing their cash go up in smoke.

It is a won­der­ful com­mer­cial money-maker and hey, why not?

If peo­ple want to set fire to things and make a noise without the fear of be­ing vis­ited by noise con­trol or charged with pub­lic nui­sance then this is it.

While last Sun­day was the ac­tual day of volatile cel­e­bra­tion we all know that for the next few weeks, and months for that mat­ter, the ex­plo­sions will con­tinue. And the an­i­mals will con­tinue to fret and hide.

Not in Aus­tralia though, be­cause Guy Fawkes and fire­works sales are not part of that land­scape any more, apart from one state.

Fire­works were banned from sale in all states dur­ing the 1980s, ex­cept for the North­ern Ter­ri­tory but they are not sold there for Guy Fawkes.

In­stead, they are used to cel­e­brate Ter­ri­tory Day on July 1 — a cel­e­bra­tion of the state at­tain­ing self-gov­er­nance.

But they can only be let off on that day be­tween 5pm and 11pm and ac­cord­ing to the rules all un­used fire­works must be handed in to au­thor­i­ties the fol­low­ing day.

This is why Aus­tralians who visit these parts dur­ing the Guy Fawkes crescendo are in­trigued to see the things go­ing off ev­ery­where.

I know a cou­ple of Aussies liv­ing here and they join the pur­chas­ing queues lead­ing up to the day and rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to light up the night sky, like they once did back home be­fore the bans were im­posed.

But they do it away from the pop­u­lace and head for beach­fronts.

Fire­works are also banned in Canada, but em­braced in China be­cause they’ve been mak­ing them for about a mil­lion years and are rather good at it.

The con­cept of Guy Fawkes is rather per­plex­ing. Be­cause it is ef­fec­tively a cel­e­bra­tion of an event in 1605 where 12 chaps, led by Guy Fawkes, at­tempted to blow up the English Par­lia­ment: the build­ing and those in it.

They were caught, how­ever, af­ter some­one dobbed them in, and they were tor­tured and ex­e­cuted.

This failed po­lit­i­cal in­tru­sion later as­sumed the ti­tle of the “Gun­pow­der Plot” which of course is where the gun­pow­der and fiery pow­ders used in to­day’s com­mem­o­ra­tions come into it.

And that’s what in­trigues and amuses me.

We are cel­e­brat­ing and com­mem­o­rat­ing an at­tempt to blow up par­lia­ment.

What does that tell us? Ba­si­cally, that if you try and blow up par­lia­ment you will be se­verely dealt with by the au­thor­i­ties . . . but that for hun­dreds of years af­ter­wards peo­ple will gather and let of flames and ex­plo­sions in a com­mu­nal cel­e­bra­tion of the fact some­one had a go at blow­ing up par­lia­ment.

And it plants the name of Guy Fawkes into the his­tory books.

He’s a star.

For the No­vem­ber 5 out­ings of ex­plod­ing clus­ters of fire and de­bris is ba­si­cally a re­cre­ation of what would have hap­pened had he been able to light the wick. That’s how I see it any­way. No won­der the Amer­i­cans stick with the ab­sur­dity and mind­less­ness of Hal­loween. No way their po­lit­i­cal top guns would stand for this Guy Fawkes thing.

They have enough po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive woes across their po­lit­i­cal land­scape as it is.

My ear­li­est me­mories of Guy Fawkes night go back to around 1959.

Crikey kids, it was all black and white back then I think and a lot more sub­tle in the au­dio sense.

For years we would an­nu­ally scour the neigh­bour­hood for things to stack up on the bon­fire.

We’d knock on doors and asked if they had any­thing we could take and burn for them.

We did okay, although one old chap suf­fer­ing the men­tal ail­ments of ex­treme age gave us a pile of fur­ni­ture his daugh­ter had been stor­ing in his back shed.

Luck­ily he proudly showed her how he’d got some “kid­dies” mak­ing the big bon­fire over on the beach to clear out the “rub­bish” in the shed.

It took us two hours to take it all back.

One time there was an east­erly blow­ing and sparks from the bon­fire ig­nited some of the dry Nor­folk pine fronds.

Burned-out sky­rock­ets land­ing on the roof un­til mid­night and great echo­ing booms from Mighty Can­nons go­ing off in the drains . . . dear oh dear.

Guy would have been proud.

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