Thursday, 5 November 2015

All Hallows' Eve / Guy Fawkes Night 2015

This evening, over there in Blighty it's 'Guy Fawkes Night' or, to some extent, ditching the historical perspective, 'Bonfire' or 'Firework Night'. I haven't lived in the UK for a very long time so am probably totally behind the times. When I grew up in Kent in the 1960's and 70's the fifth of November was a time of great excitement; we'd go into the nearby town of Deal with our home-made guy and like street traders, chant "Penny for the Guy" and spend what money we'd collected on sparklers. There was usually a modest bonfire in someone's back garden with orange squash and baked potatoes as the effigy of the unfortunate Mr Fawkes went up in flames. One year, a friend of mine Sarah, wrapped a naked one-legged Action Man in toilet paper and sat him on top of the fire and we watched in fascination as he melted - that was as radical as it got. I don't doubt that things have changed today. Over here in Ireland, some four hundred years ago, blowing up the House of Lords might not have sounded like such a bad idea to certain sections of the populace. Here in Dublin, Halloween is a huge deal and has been for a long time. From August on, kids from all the housing estates and flats' complexes start collecting and storing wood, mostly pallets, for their bonfire. They have hiding places but the local Garda (police) know where they are. Each year there are calls from local communities and politicians to stamp out the fires as they're very dangerous and with them an air of anarchy and lawlessness descends upon the city. This year I spent three days hanging out with a bunch of youngsters from a nearby, semi-derelict flats complex in north inner-city Dublin as a game of cat and mouse played out with the local Garda. Their pallets were removed from the two hiding places but they had back-up locations. They also raided a rival flats' complex and stole some of their pallets; this can be seen in this short video for The Irish Times by Enda O'Dowd, I make a fleeting appearance dodging stones and bottles; - By the afternoon of the 31st of October, a compromise was made, and the kids got their fire as long as "there wasn't a single tyre or any Messing". Some of the things I witnessed along the way were simply nuts, but, I suspect for a kid with nothing to do, great fun. You may ask what does this have to do with Dungeness beach? Nothing, but it is, most certainly " A state of mind". Also, like the Kentish desert, there's a beauty in the bleakness, albeit urban, that's in the eye of the beholder.

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