“…gunpowder, treason and plot…”

You all remember the nursery rhyme, right”?

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”

This ditty commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of November 5th 1605, as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night.

Actually, what we Brits commemorate is the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, which was an attempt by my fellow Yorkshireman, Guy Fawkes, to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

As children, we used to celebrate Guy Fawkes every year, with a small bonfire in our back garden, and fireworks and sparklers. It was all very low-key and jolly, including letting rockets off from milk bottles, I seem to remember.

And toffee apples.

And baked potatoes.

It’s been many a year since I celebrated Guy Fawkes, and yet today it all seems strangely apposite.

There’s a combined greyness + tension in the air + a distinct feeling of gloom & foreboding.

Sitting waiting for the pollution here in Delhi to clear…for Coronavirus to go and give us our lives back…and, more immediately, for the Americans to decide on their president – well, it all seems distinctly gunpowder-treason-and-plot-y, to be honest.

We have fire crackers going off most evenings here in Delhi (toxic pollution notwithstanding) as we head towards Diwali. There’s your gunpowder, for you.

Dunno if you’d describe the bizarre scenes unfolding in some parts of the US as treason, but there is certainly a lot of plotting going on.

On a gloomy, polluted day like today, when more and more of the world is re-locking-down, and everyone is watching and waiting to see what unfolds in America, it’s hard not to wonder about all that gunpowder, treason and most definitely all the plotting.

I imagine there will be no Guy Fawkes celebrations at all back in the ol’ home country, since England re-entered lockdown today.

There will be no tar barrels in Ottery St. Mary – an extraordinary event marking Guy Fawkes, that takes place in Devon, and we went to when my son Hari was at Exeter university. Villagers carry burning tar barrels through packed narrow streets and although it was – ahem – exhilarating, and I’m very glad to have witnessed it, it was borderline really, really dangerous.

Too many people, too much alcohol, and 30kg flaming tar barrels…what could possibly go wrong?

© Christine Pemberton
© Christine Pemberton

The streets of this little village will be deserted tonight, I imagine, courtesy lockdown.

Festivals, traditions, celebrations – one by one they are shut down, around the globe, as this terrible virus just keeps on killing and weakening us all. Weakening our health, our economies, our social systems.

Stay safe, everyone.

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