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
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.