Saturday was Guy Fawkes Night, and what a perfect opportunity it was for chavs and norms alike to bask in the glow of a local fireworks display without having to work the next day (unless you work in retail/call centres). Most residents from my tiny town of Waterlooville would have likely shifted to Cosham to watch the display on the formerly-IBM field near the tax office or headed a little further into Pompey to check out the Gunwharf/Southsea offerings. Recalling the last time I was there, I can imagine this past weekend’s frivolities involving fairground rides, chip butties (one of the most amazing culinary delights on this planet) and um, fireworks.
Since fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts, on Saturday I tackled a large pile of laundry, ate a noodle cup and rearranged my reusable shopping bags into organized piles.
Americans don’t really celebrate Bonfire Night, probably because of the fact that we are technically burning effigies of the guy who tried to blow up Parliament back when they hated the Catholics so much (that’s what you get for being stuck with a King who got so lazy to keep killing his wives that he finally created a brand new anti-Catholic church for his divorces). But, much like their tweaking of our sports/spelling/road-driving alignment, couldn’t they just have tweaked the celebrations a bit? Like still set up bonfires, but maybe burn the Flag of the 13 colonies instead as a “screw you” to us Brits?
I recall the first time I was here for 4th of July, and started reminiscing about how, even when I grew up in a boring bungalow in Cowplain, I could still hear one or two neighbours setting off fireworks for that day. I had assumed that there was probably some Yank lurking in the midst because it’s near-fucking impossible to find fireworks before October. I do know that there’s one shop in London I was desperate to go to because all they sold was fireworks and party supplies. Best job ever, my 6 year-old self had thought.
When I was told that we couldn’t buy fireworks here, I assumed it was just those pesky Roman Candles that were banned, but no, it was all of them. Despite the fact that children dance around catherine wheels, cakes and screech rockets, grown adults in the US can’t even be trusted to hold a damn sparkler without disintegrating.
Having grown up in the UK with all manner of public safety messages about fireworks, it was considered your own stupid fault if you turned up anywhere with a burn injury on November 6 – there was just no excuse. But piling into a car with my husband and a few of his friends to go buy fireworks in New Hampshire (where it’s legal) a few years ago didn’t make me feel any better just because I felt I was sufficiently trained. It also didn’t help that New Hampshire (unlike Massachusetts) allows supermarkets to sell booze (yep, can’t buy cider with your carrots in MA), so if we didn’t accidentally set ourselves on fire, we might die in an hilarious drink-driving accident (and then burn up faster due to our blood alcohol levels).
(Just kidding – our driver was a sober, good sport).
The fireworks shop was not the sort of megatastic fun-filled emporium I had imagined. It was nothing like the London-based shop let alone a fireworks, candy and puppy-dog store. It was a room stuffed with creaky, wooden-framed shelves which in turn were stuffed with boxes upon boxes of tackily-packaged fireworks. Also, it was on a random highway pit-stop next to a porn store. A really BIG porn store. I think that was some sort of porno emporium, because it was big enough to host peep shows.
While July 4th was an ironically enjoyable experience for an expat that year, subsequent years (and every single Guy Fawkes Night) has been a bit of a damp squid. Nothing to do, nothing going on. Complete polar opposite of what I’ve been used to. Part of that has been putting British-style holidays on a bit of a pedal stool for too long, and expecting to get the same experience on the same days in a completely different country. I tried looking up “Guy Fawkes USA” in Google and I did turn up a result of a lovely mini festival in Florida run by what is apparently the British American Chamber of Commerce (like I seriously needed another amazing reason to go to Florida?!), and something called Guy Fawkes Night with a bonfire in Rhode Island…in October. Every other result was pictures of people in masks that would confuse even Alan Moore himself. Whatever.
At least I wasn’t in Oban for it. Yikes.