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November 5th 2009

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    For several weeks resident school masters built a bonfire.  Older boys were encouraged to assist.  Younger boys were discouraged, because of dangerousness.  And some of us wondered why, and how and for what.

   At the weekend, from the junior dormitory, it was possible to hear that familiar sound of carousal associated with Tiger Beer, Pauli Girl and Johnny Walker.  This late night ruckus heard in midweek raised a question that could only be answered by the most English amongst us.  Tomorrow, I was informed, is Guy Fawkes.

   Possibly I had lacked curiosity, because Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up the Houses of parliament in 1605 and ever since apparently he had been burned in effigy after first being subjected to a display of fireworks.  And anyone who did not know this was quite clearly retarded.

   The bonfire had to be constructed so that it fell correctly.  A complexity that contained more than piling combustible upon combustible.  Hammer and nails and wire and long discussion with associated gestures were involved.  It was long ago, so a memory of ferocity between disparate bonfire building theories may not be correct.  But I do recall that the fall of the bonfire preoccupied the older boys, many of whom had theories of their own. 

 

    

    The matron had been charged with making Guy Fawkes.  Pillows, old sheets, straw and lipstick features.  And Guy Fawkes had upon his head a school hat.

    When the great day came Guy Fawkes was fastened atop the bonfire, school boys promised their best behavior, and at dusk we sat in precise lines a suitable distance from both the bonfire and from that area where fireworks were to be launched.

   I never actually saw Guy Fawkes burn and nor did the matron.  But we both heard the cheer.  And this because during the fireworks part of the festivity a rocket from the fireworks display area flew directly into my left eye, causing me to be silently removed to the dispensary. 

   In the aftermath, I was asked by those in whose charge we were, why I had not ducked.  I have always dismissed that question from them as belonging to the adult mechanism of self defense that follows consumption of alcohol.   However, my comrades in the junior dormitory had their own answer to this question.  Amongst them it was very obvious that I was dangerously moronic.  

   In those days I recall agreeing with my peers, but since then I have come to understand this incident as no more than an early example of the dispute between the left and right sides of the thing that is me.  

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tim candler

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(Guy Fawkes Bonfire 2009)