Bitesize Episode 67 - What 'Bonfire Night' Really Means to British Teens!

Nov 7 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

Dive into the fiery heart of Bonfire Night, a British bash full of fireworks and history, where teens sneak their first sips and flirts under the November sky. Charlie takes you through this sparkling tradition, from explosive plots to warm memories of growing up. Join us for a crackling journey filled with nostalgia and the snap of autumn turning to winter.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 67 - Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to another episode of the British English Podcast. I'm your host, Charlie Baxter, and today we'll dive into a culturally significant British tradition and, of course, expose you to some native phrases to enhance your understanding of our culture and language at the same time. Specifically, I wanted to focus on Bonfire Night, aka Guy Fawkes Night, because it's still very much an event in the calendar for a lot of Brits, but it's unique slash weird as we gather around a bonfire to essentially watch a model representing a guy called Guy Fawkes get chucked on the fire and burnt to a cinder whilst we indulge in a combination of food and drink that we only really ever have on the 5th of November. So let me tell you all about it and what it really means to a local whilst growing up here in the UK.

Charlie:
Now, I think we should probably discuss the mood leading up to this time of year for Brits. So let's see. September has come and gone and with it, the hope of any more warm, sunny days have had to be let go. Although, as we are all well aware of the climate changing in front of our eyes, this year, in 2023 the UK had a very warm October. We had a week of glorious sunshine and I was kind of sunbathing on one of the days, and I did see that some people even went to the beach, which really is unprecedented in October here.

Charlie:
But usually the end of September means the end of the summer. And so October brings with it a slight lull in the mood as it starts to dawn on us that we have a long time ahead of us until we'll get some good weather again. And we're also reflecting on whether we've got a fair share of the hot, sunny days that we really, stupidly hope for every single summer. Umm... As I said, global warming has helped that in recent years. But this year we didn't really get anything through July, August and really September. So it was only June and October that we got some good sunny days. So we're as a nation, we're feeling a bit miffed. And throughout my younger years, I think that was the general trend in October, we're like, where was the summer? We just got like one week in June. Rubbish. So we're feeling a little bit miffed. Let's keep that in mind. Miffed as in feeling like we were hard done by. Umm... We were treated unfairly. Yes, that's a simpler way of saying it. So October, it brings a slight lull in the mood because we're thinking, oh God, it's going to be ages until we see the sun again. But thankfully, things aren't too depressing instantly because we've got the crisp blue skies and autumnal colours coming through in the leaves that are starting to drop off the trees everywhere you walk.

Charlie:
So everyone's appreciating that to some extent. And being this side of Christmas, we have the build up towards it to keep our spirits high, but to get us ready for the businesses to really start milking this festive season, we have Halloween and Bonfire Night here in the UK to help remind us how corporations really try to sell it to us, and we lap it up. We lap it up.

Charlie:
Halloween, of course, is much more common across the world as the US is big on this one. They really go to town on their fancy dress and it's, it's really encouraged to get out there and trick or treat, whereas in the UK we feel a bit silly putting a lot of effort into the outfits. We don't want to look like we're trying too hard and thinking about it, that probably makes us feel even more foolish going up to a random house and saying, you know, give us some treats for the efforts we've gone to and looking really scary 'raah!'. So no wonder teenage Brits often end up finding solace in overdelivering on the trick option available to each victim by taking a dozen eggs along with them and lobbing them at the poor house owners for a quick hi, and probably to get some street cred amongst their friends. Um, I don't know about these days. Maybe Gen Z are more woke and they don't do this naughty behaviour, but when I was younger, petrol stations and supermarkets actually refused to sell eggs to teenagers in the lead up to Halloween because of this well known mischievous trait teens have or maybe had in the UK, whereby they throw eggs at houses that don't give them enough of a treat. And if you aren't aware, these eggs are not hard boiled. They are gloopy, wet and raw, and they will run down a brick wall and cause a right problem for that poor house owner that apparently didn't give enough sweets.

Charlie:
This is a very small percentage. Mostly it's children going up with their parents and they're innocently asking for some sweets. Please, pretty please. But we'll focus on Halloween another day as I want you to remember, remember the 5th of November. This is a rhyme we learned whilst growing up to help us remember that bonfire night, the night that we celebrate the death of a man called Guy Fawkes, happens on the 5th of November. So why do we still have it in for this poor guy? Well, he was one of the 13 troublemakers that were plotting to blow up the British Parliament. And by plotting, I mean they managed to sneak 36 barrels of gunpowder through a tunnel into the cellars below the Houses of Parliament, and in the early hours of the 5th of November in 1605, things were about to go boom. Boom! We need a Dolby sort of deep 'boof' bass insert. No, maybe just a bomb. I'll just find a bomb sound. I don't, don't want to scare you, though, especially if you're on public transport. Let's just stick to boom. Yes, things were about to go boom.

Charlie:
Um and I did imagine the Houses of Parliament, along with Big Ben, being blown to smithereens when I was younger, when I was told about this. But as this was in 1605, that Guy Fawkes got caught, I suppose it's safe to say that Big Ben's architect wasn't born yet, as the construction didn't start until 1843, so Big Ben wasn't even around to be concerned about. So Guy Fawkes, his target, was probably less expensive than the current Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, but nonetheless a significant structure in that day and age.

Charlie:
So why was Guy Fawkes wanting to do this? Well, it all stems back to a very famous king in English history called Henry the Eighth, and how his first wife was unable to give him a male heir to his throne despite her lack of trying. Bless her. And perhaps we could point the finger at his next wife, Anne Boleyn, for being so irresistible to this sexist, greedy fat king that treated the women in his life so bad that even R. Kelly would have probably said something to him if they were alive at the same time, you know. If they were having a beer, he would have maybe said, you probably shouldn't be doing that.

Charlie:
If you didn't know, Henry the Eighth was a king in the Tudor times, in the 1500s. And he married not once, not twice, not thrice, but six times. But the problem with divorce and remarriage back then was that it didn't really exist, and or you couldn't really remarry in the eyes of God and in a church. And so naughty Henry, unaccustomed to hearing no, I imagine throughout his years of being a royal member, decided to break away from the Pope and his Roman Catholic church to create a new religion that allowed for divorce and remarriage in the eyes of God. So in comes the Church of England, a new form of Christianity which caused a huge amount of division amongst the people. He couldn't just change everyone's minds, could he? And each new king and queen throughout the next 50/60 years. Yo yoed between bringing Catholicism back to the people and being determined to continue with Protestantism. Um from what I understand, the term Protestant essentially means to break away from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. There are various theological views, but essentially people are like, nah, we don't want to be controlled by old Popey anymore in Italy. So we're gonna make our own slightly different version of Christianity. But of course, while the leaders can choose their religion to follow, the citizens are forced to agree. And if they disagreed, then they'd not just be greeted with a fine or a slap on the wrist, but an almighty array of terrible forms of torture.

Charlie:
So it was a scary world to live in for those who secretly opposed the religion of the time. And yes, so Henry the Eighth created the Church of England. And fast forward 50 to 60 years. A plot was formed when King James the First was in power, and in comes this man called Guy Fawkes, who was going to play a pivotal role in this operation. He wasn't the lead conspirator, but he was the demolition man, as he was the only person in the group who had had experience with explosives due to his military expertise having fought for Catholic Spain in the 80 Years War against Protestant Dutch reformers. So that's the setup. Imagine the barrels were in place and Mr. Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, was down there with a lantern, ready to detonate the 36 barrels of gunpowder. But luckily for King James the First, an anonymous letter to the authorities was apparently received in late October, and it read: They shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. Right, okay. So they get that message and they're like, right, well, we probably should search the grounds. So royal guards searched the House of Lords at midnight and in the early hours of the 5th of November, Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, was discovered in the cellars with a fuse, a small lamp, a box of matches and 36 poorly hidden barrels of gunpowder. I mean, it's hard to hide that many. 36! That's a lot. Maybe you could hide one under a... pretend it to be a table, put a tablecloth over it and put some pizza on. Be like, no, I'm just eating pizza in the cellar. What, those other 35? Yeah, sure. They've got a bit of gunpowder in. Not gonna lie. Did want to blow this place up. But you've caught me. You could say they caught him red handed. And now this is where I must have made an incorrect, logical conclusion from seeing a mascot of Guy Fawkes burning upon a huge fire every year of my childhood. Um because I thought he was burnt at the stake. I thought they caught him and just chucked him on a fire and said, be done with you! Apparently not.

Charlie:
He was taken to the king. They had a little chat and Guy said, I really, really don't like you and I wish I managed to blow all of you Scots up and send you back to Scotland. So apparently, I mean Mary, Queen of Scots, I know that she was before King James the First. So I guess the Scottish got into power and the Catholics didn't like that. I'm imagining that the Scots brought more Protestantism to the people, and the Catholics were like, no, I don't want that, go away. So yeah, he had a chat with King James. King James was like, right, well, I mean, I respect you for owning up to what you were trying to do, but I'm still going to imprison you, interrogate you, and torture you.

Charlie:
So that's what he did. He sent him to the Tower of London, and apparently Guy Fawkes held out and did not give up his accomplices until they got the more torturous devices out. And one of them is a rack. It's known as the rack. I don't know if this was famous across lots of different nations. It seems like a fairly obvious, easy way to just absolutely ruin somebody. But yeah, just imagine them on a bed. I mean, probably not a comfortable mattress or anything, but they tied each limb and then they pull the limbs away from the torso. So yeah, probably the worst thing in the world. Um I did actually see a meme about this torturous device recently, and it was quite funny. It said at one point, I reckon it was a really satisfying stretch, but yeah, the rest of it would have been horrendous. Um so they managed to break him metaphorically and physically probably. So he told them who was involved. They caught up with them and they had escaped to the Midlands. Um, they killed them, and then hung Guy Fawkes in front of the public. And then they even decided to display the body parts of the Gunpowder Plotters throughout London as a warning to others of the dangers of treason.

Charlie:
So that was pretty heavy, wasn't it? But finally, King James the First decided to show his gratitude for not being blown to pieces by passing a Thanksgiving act to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. I mean, there's two sides to this story, right? I mean, yeah, guy, Guy Fawkes, he was going to kill loads of people. So naughty, naughty, naughty. But then again, the other side of it, King James killing people if they're Catholic. All pretty terrible, really, isn't it? But yeah, King James created this celebration to appreciate that he was not blown to pieces. Um, and that included a special church service, bonfires and fireworks. And that is what we still do today. Although I've never been to a church service at this time, but certainly have attended many a park with a bonfire in it and fireworks going off above it. And while I'll now be talking more about my own experience and less about, you know, torture, I reckon a fair few Brits might have experienced something similar. But, you know, please take that with a pinch of salt because this is anecdotal. So in my opinion, Bonfire Night is typically a family event. So you've got the parents and their young kids going to their local park, or maybe even school that has outdoor fields. And it's an evening where you put on your wellies, your coats, your gloves, and if there... and if you're worried about the fireworks, then you might put your earmuffs on.

Charlie:
I'd like to set the record straight. I never wore earmuffs because, well, I am what they call hard as fucking nails. And throughout my innocent years I remember being treated to a toffee apple or candy floss and maybe a hot chocolate. So you'd then stand with your family and watch the mascots or stuffed figure that represents Guy Fawkes. I think he usually sat on a chair. Yes. So you watch them put him up or he's already there. It depends. But yeah. So you can clearly see a figure of a human. Don't worry, there's no human on there. Um, a stuffed figure on the middle of the bonfire. And then you gather around and you watch them light the bonfire. And it's mad to think this. And then everyone watches as this figurine is burnt to a crisp. And for me, that was an event where I started to appreciate how dangerous a fire is due to its scale. Because you don't normally stand next to a fire that big, and the heat that would emanate from it was ridiculous. Um and then the fireworks would come as well. So yeah, a lot of, a lot of fire, but we'd ooh and aah about the fireworks. And then maybe before leaving, spend some time with our friends.

Charlie:
And this is interesting to reflect on. It's an event in the calendar year that would bring together people that I didn't normally socialise with, because it was multiple years if we were at school. I mean, it depends on when I'm thinking. But as I got older I'd socialise with different aged kids, um, that I wouldn't normally get the chance to meet because in school you're kind of sticking to your classmates. And as I got older, my friends and I would start to do more and more daring things. You know, firstly, we'd break away from our families and go hang out at the swings far away from where the action was, thinking we were the most rebellious humans alive. Fast forward to my mid-teens, and I would probably have a six pack of beer in a plastic bag pretending that it's not alcohol. And then whenever nobody was looking, trying to swig this terrible tasting alcohol, it was disgusting, in my opinion then. But, um, my friends were doing it, right? So whilst having this secret craving for a hot chocolate and a toffee apple, my friends were starting to dabble with drink and being a teenager, my prefrontal cortex was far from mature enough to say I don't actually really like this taste, so I'm not going to drink it. So we'd get tipsy, we'd get drunk, we'd get. Yeah, I'd say we got drunk at the age of 13, 14, 15. And the boys and girls started to think about what it meant to flirt with one another. So yeah, we were learning what it meant to fancy someone. And this, as I said, this event in the calendar year... It still stands out to me as one that helped us do all this because it's, it's, it's rare to get a nighttime event where family get together, but you as an individual teenager can separate from your family and mingle with all of your school mates.

Charlie:
I'm sure there is another time in the year, but it feels like looking back on it, it was one of the few, and I remember having this crush on one girl for a few too many years and a separate thought, but one year I got pickpocketed, but I didn't care. I didn't care that I got pickpocketed because I had spent the whole evening with that girl. Oh, I think I even managed to give her a little kiss. And I think that year might have been the first time I didn't unconsciously just wish I was able to have a toffee apple and stare at the bonfire until home time. So you could say that Bonfire night, it helps teenagers in the UK start to dabble with adulthood. That's my opinion. And that was how I feel like my childhood happened. But it's just anecdotal, remember? And now that I'm 33 years old, I haven't attended one of these events in well over a decade, and I'm sure most Brits at my age don't even stop to think about what it meant to them. But I think in those formative years, it did play a significant cultural and social role for some of us.

Charlie:
And yes, the Guy Fawkes mascot is really messed up. And I do believe that some regions are removing this stuffed figure from the event. But culture comes from tradition, and so we inevitably still have a hangover of this within our society. So my question to you is, do you want to remember, remember the 5th of November? Oh, actually, the full rhyme is: Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason, and plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot. It's not going to win any awards, but at least you now know a bit more about the significance of this event for Brits around the UK. Well done for getting to the end of your listening practice for today, and thank you for choosing to tune in to me and my thoughts. Um, and yeah, for me to ramble on about cultural events Brits might typically experience. Remember, remember the 5th of November and that this is just anecdotal. I can't assume this to be accurate for the majority, but I grew up in the nineties and the noughties in the south of England, just outside London, and experienced all of the above. Well, I didn't get tortured in the Tower of London, but I definitely had candyfloss and forced myself to like beer during Bonfire Night. So yeah, thanks again. Hope you enjoyed it. My name is Charlie and I'll see you next time on the British English Podcast.

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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 67 - Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to another episode of the British English Podcast. I'm your host, Charlie Baxter, and today we'll dive into a culturally significant British tradition and, of course, expose you to some native phrases to enhance your understanding of our culture and language at the same time. Specifically, I wanted to focus on Bonfire Night, aka Guy Fawkes Night, because it's still very much an event in the calendar for a lot of Brits, but it's unique slash weird as we gather around a bonfire to essentially watch a model representing a guy called Guy Fawkes get chucked on the fire and burnt to a cinder whilst we indulge in a combination of food and drink that we only really ever have on the 5th of November. So let me tell you all about it and what it really means to a local whilst growing up here in the UK.

Charlie:
Now, I think we should probably discuss the mood leading up to this time of year for Brits. So let's see. September has come and gone and with it, the hope of any more warm, sunny days have had to be let go. Although, as we are all well aware of the climate changing in front of our eyes, this year, in 2023 the UK had a very warm October. We had a week of glorious sunshine and I was kind of sunbathing on one of the days, and I did see that some people even went to the beach, which really is unprecedented in October here.

Charlie:
But usually the end of September means the end of the summer. And so October brings with it a slight lull in the mood as it starts to dawn on us that we have a long time ahead of us until we'll get some good weather again. And we're also reflecting on whether we've got a fair share of the hot, sunny days that we really, stupidly hope for every single summer. Umm... As I said, global warming has helped that in recent years. But this year we didn't really get anything through July, August and really September. So it was only June and October that we got some good sunny days. So we're as a nation, we're feeling a bit miffed. And throughout my younger years, I think that was the general trend in October, we're like, where was the summer? We just got like one week in June. Rubbish. So we're feeling a little bit miffed. Let's keep that in mind. Miffed as in feeling like we were hard done by. Umm... We were treated unfairly. Yes, that's a simpler way of saying it. So October, it brings a slight lull in the mood because we're thinking, oh God, it's going to be ages until we see the sun again. But thankfully, things aren't too depressing instantly because we've got the crisp blue skies and autumnal colours coming through in the leaves that are starting to drop off the trees everywhere you walk.

Charlie:
So everyone's appreciating that to some extent. And being this side of Christmas, we have the build up towards it to keep our spirits high, but to get us ready for the businesses to really start milking this festive season, we have Halloween and Bonfire Night here in the UK to help remind us how corporations really try to sell it to us, and we lap it up. We lap it up.

Charlie:
Halloween, of course, is much more common across the world as the US is big on this one. They really go to town on their fancy dress and it's, it's really encouraged to get out there and trick or treat, whereas in the UK we feel a bit silly putting a lot of effort into the outfits. We don't want to look like we're trying too hard and thinking about it, that probably makes us feel even more foolish going up to a random house and saying, you know, give us some treats for the efforts we've gone to and looking really scary 'raah!'. So no wonder teenage Brits often end up finding solace in overdelivering on the trick option available to each victim by taking a dozen eggs along with them and lobbing them at the poor house owners for a quick hi, and probably to get some street cred amongst their friends. Um, I don't know about these days. Maybe Gen Z are more woke and they don't do this naughty behaviour, but when I was younger, petrol stations and supermarkets actually refused to sell eggs to teenagers in the lead up to Halloween because of this well known mischievous trait teens have or maybe had in the UK, whereby they throw eggs at houses that don't give them enough of a treat. And if you aren't aware, these eggs are not hard boiled. They are gloopy, wet and raw, and they will run down a brick wall and cause a right problem for that poor house owner that apparently didn't give enough sweets.

Charlie:
This is a very small percentage. Mostly it's children going up with their parents and they're innocently asking for some sweets. Please, pretty please. But we'll focus on Halloween another day as I want you to remember, remember the 5th of November. This is a rhyme we learned whilst growing up to help us remember that bonfire night, the night that we celebrate the death of a man called Guy Fawkes, happens on the 5th of November. So why do we still have it in for this poor guy? Well, he was one of the 13 troublemakers that were plotting to blow up the British Parliament. And by plotting, I mean they managed to sneak 36 barrels of gunpowder through a tunnel into the cellars below the Houses of Parliament, and in the early hours of the 5th of November in 1605, things were about to go boom. Boom! We need a Dolby sort of deep 'boof' bass insert. No, maybe just a bomb. I'll just find a bomb sound. I don't, don't want to scare you, though, especially if you're on public transport. Let's just stick to boom. Yes, things were about to go boom.

Charlie:
Um and I did imagine the Houses of Parliament, along with Big Ben, being blown to smithereens when I was younger, when I was told about this. But as this was in 1605, that Guy Fawkes got caught, I suppose it's safe to say that Big Ben's architect wasn't born yet, as the construction didn't start until 1843, so Big Ben wasn't even around to be concerned about. So Guy Fawkes, his target, was probably less expensive than the current Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, but nonetheless a significant structure in that day and age.

Charlie:
So why was Guy Fawkes wanting to do this? Well, it all stems back to a very famous king in English history called Henry the Eighth, and how his first wife was unable to give him a male heir to his throne despite her lack of trying. Bless her. And perhaps we could point the finger at his next wife, Anne Boleyn, for being so irresistible to this sexist, greedy fat king that treated the women in his life so bad that even R. Kelly would have probably said something to him if they were alive at the same time, you know. If they were having a beer, he would have maybe said, you probably shouldn't be doing that.

Charlie:
If you didn't know, Henry the Eighth was a king in the Tudor times, in the 1500s. And he married not once, not twice, not thrice, but six times. But the problem with divorce and remarriage back then was that it didn't really exist, and or you couldn't really remarry in the eyes of God and in a church. And so naughty Henry, unaccustomed to hearing no, I imagine throughout his years of being a royal member, decided to break away from the Pope and his Roman Catholic church to create a new religion that allowed for divorce and remarriage in the eyes of God. So in comes the Church of England, a new form of Christianity which caused a huge amount of division amongst the people. He couldn't just change everyone's minds, could he? And each new king and queen throughout the next 50/60 years. Yo yoed between bringing Catholicism back to the people and being determined to continue with Protestantism. Um from what I understand, the term Protestant essentially means to break away from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. There are various theological views, but essentially people are like, nah, we don't want to be controlled by old Popey anymore in Italy. So we're gonna make our own slightly different version of Christianity. But of course, while the leaders can choose their religion to follow, the citizens are forced to agree. And if they disagreed, then they'd not just be greeted with a fine or a slap on the wrist, but an almighty array of terrible forms of torture.

Charlie:
So it was a scary world to live in for those who secretly opposed the religion of the time. And yes, so Henry the Eighth created the Church of England. And fast forward 50 to 60 years. A plot was formed when King James the First was in power, and in comes this man called Guy Fawkes, who was going to play a pivotal role in this operation. He wasn't the lead conspirator, but he was the demolition man, as he was the only person in the group who had had experience with explosives due to his military expertise having fought for Catholic Spain in the 80 Years War against Protestant Dutch reformers. So that's the setup. Imagine the barrels were in place and Mr. Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, was down there with a lantern, ready to detonate the 36 barrels of gunpowder. But luckily for King James the First, an anonymous letter to the authorities was apparently received in late October, and it read: They shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. Right, okay. So they get that message and they're like, right, well, we probably should search the grounds. So royal guards searched the House of Lords at midnight and in the early hours of the 5th of November, Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, was discovered in the cellars with a fuse, a small lamp, a box of matches and 36 poorly hidden barrels of gunpowder. I mean, it's hard to hide that many. 36! That's a lot. Maybe you could hide one under a... pretend it to be a table, put a tablecloth over it and put some pizza on. Be like, no, I'm just eating pizza in the cellar. What, those other 35? Yeah, sure. They've got a bit of gunpowder in. Not gonna lie. Did want to blow this place up. But you've caught me. You could say they caught him red handed. And now this is where I must have made an incorrect, logical conclusion from seeing a mascot of Guy Fawkes burning upon a huge fire every year of my childhood. Um because I thought he was burnt at the stake. I thought they caught him and just chucked him on a fire and said, be done with you! Apparently not.

Charlie:
He was taken to the king. They had a little chat and Guy said, I really, really don't like you and I wish I managed to blow all of you Scots up and send you back to Scotland. So apparently, I mean Mary, Queen of Scots, I know that she was before King James the First. So I guess the Scottish got into power and the Catholics didn't like that. I'm imagining that the Scots brought more Protestantism to the people, and the Catholics were like, no, I don't want that, go away. So yeah, he had a chat with King James. King James was like, right, well, I mean, I respect you for owning up to what you were trying to do, but I'm still going to imprison you, interrogate you, and torture you.

Charlie:
So that's what he did. He sent him to the Tower of London, and apparently Guy Fawkes held out and did not give up his accomplices until they got the more torturous devices out. And one of them is a rack. It's known as the rack. I don't know if this was famous across lots of different nations. It seems like a fairly obvious, easy way to just absolutely ruin somebody. But yeah, just imagine them on a bed. I mean, probably not a comfortable mattress or anything, but they tied each limb and then they pull the limbs away from the torso. So yeah, probably the worst thing in the world. Um I did actually see a meme about this torturous device recently, and it was quite funny. It said at one point, I reckon it was a really satisfying stretch, but yeah, the rest of it would have been horrendous. Um so they managed to break him metaphorically and physically probably. So he told them who was involved. They caught up with them and they had escaped to the Midlands. Um, they killed them, and then hung Guy Fawkes in front of the public. And then they even decided to display the body parts of the Gunpowder Plotters throughout London as a warning to others of the dangers of treason.

Charlie:
So that was pretty heavy, wasn't it? But finally, King James the First decided to show his gratitude for not being blown to pieces by passing a Thanksgiving act to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. I mean, there's two sides to this story, right? I mean, yeah, guy, Guy Fawkes, he was going to kill loads of people. So naughty, naughty, naughty. But then again, the other side of it, King James killing people if they're Catholic. All pretty terrible, really, isn't it? But yeah, King James created this celebration to appreciate that he was not blown to pieces. Um, and that included a special church service, bonfires and fireworks. And that is what we still do today. Although I've never been to a church service at this time, but certainly have attended many a park with a bonfire in it and fireworks going off above it. And while I'll now be talking more about my own experience and less about, you know, torture, I reckon a fair few Brits might have experienced something similar. But, you know, please take that with a pinch of salt because this is anecdotal. So in my opinion, Bonfire Night is typically a family event. So you've got the parents and their young kids going to their local park, or maybe even school that has outdoor fields. And it's an evening where you put on your wellies, your coats, your gloves, and if there... and if you're worried about the fireworks, then you might put your earmuffs on.

Charlie:
I'd like to set the record straight. I never wore earmuffs because, well, I am what they call hard as fucking nails. And throughout my innocent years I remember being treated to a toffee apple or candy floss and maybe a hot chocolate. So you'd then stand with your family and watch the mascots or stuffed figure that represents Guy Fawkes. I think he usually sat on a chair. Yes. So you watch them put him up or he's already there. It depends. But yeah. So you can clearly see a figure of a human. Don't worry, there's no human on there. Um, a stuffed figure on the middle of the bonfire. And then you gather around and you watch them light the bonfire. And it's mad to think this. And then everyone watches as this figurine is burnt to a crisp. And for me, that was an event where I started to appreciate how dangerous a fire is due to its scale. Because you don't normally stand next to a fire that big, and the heat that would emanate from it was ridiculous. Um and then the fireworks would come as well. So yeah, a lot of, a lot of fire, but we'd ooh and aah about the fireworks. And then maybe before leaving, spend some time with our friends.

Charlie:
And this is interesting to reflect on. It's an event in the calendar year that would bring together people that I didn't normally socialise with, because it was multiple years if we were at school. I mean, it depends on when I'm thinking. But as I got older I'd socialise with different aged kids, um, that I wouldn't normally get the chance to meet because in school you're kind of sticking to your classmates. And as I got older, my friends and I would start to do more and more daring things. You know, firstly, we'd break away from our families and go hang out at the swings far away from where the action was, thinking we were the most rebellious humans alive. Fast forward to my mid-teens, and I would probably have a six pack of beer in a plastic bag pretending that it's not alcohol. And then whenever nobody was looking, trying to swig this terrible tasting alcohol, it was disgusting, in my opinion then. But, um, my friends were doing it, right? So whilst having this secret craving for a hot chocolate and a toffee apple, my friends were starting to dabble with drink and being a teenager, my prefrontal cortex was far from mature enough to say I don't actually really like this taste, so I'm not going to drink it. So we'd get tipsy, we'd get drunk, we'd get. Yeah, I'd say we got drunk at the age of 13, 14, 15. And the boys and girls started to think about what it meant to flirt with one another. So yeah, we were learning what it meant to fancy someone. And this, as I said, this event in the calendar year... It still stands out to me as one that helped us do all this because it's, it's, it's rare to get a nighttime event where family get together, but you as an individual teenager can separate from your family and mingle with all of your school mates.

Charlie:
I'm sure there is another time in the year, but it feels like looking back on it, it was one of the few, and I remember having this crush on one girl for a few too many years and a separate thought, but one year I got pickpocketed, but I didn't care. I didn't care that I got pickpocketed because I had spent the whole evening with that girl. Oh, I think I even managed to give her a little kiss. And I think that year might have been the first time I didn't unconsciously just wish I was able to have a toffee apple and stare at the bonfire until home time. So you could say that Bonfire night, it helps teenagers in the UK start to dabble with adulthood. That's my opinion. And that was how I feel like my childhood happened. But it's just anecdotal, remember? And now that I'm 33 years old, I haven't attended one of these events in well over a decade, and I'm sure most Brits at my age don't even stop to think about what it meant to them. But I think in those formative years, it did play a significant cultural and social role for some of us.

Charlie:
And yes, the Guy Fawkes mascot is really messed up. And I do believe that some regions are removing this stuffed figure from the event. But culture comes from tradition, and so we inevitably still have a hangover of this within our society. So my question to you is, do you want to remember, remember the 5th of November? Oh, actually, the full rhyme is: Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason, and plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot. It's not going to win any awards, but at least you now know a bit more about the significance of this event for Brits around the UK. Well done for getting to the end of your listening practice for today, and thank you for choosing to tune in to me and my thoughts. Um, and yeah, for me to ramble on about cultural events Brits might typically experience. Remember, remember the 5th of November and that this is just anecdotal. I can't assume this to be accurate for the majority, but I grew up in the nineties and the noughties in the south of England, just outside London, and experienced all of the above. Well, I didn't get tortured in the Tower of London, but I definitely had candyfloss and forced myself to like beer during Bonfire Night. So yeah, thanks again. Hope you enjoyed it. My name is Charlie and I'll see you next time on the British English Podcast.

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