Thursday, November 06, 2014
From what I understand Guy Fawkes Night has basically died out in the UK anyway. For me, as a boy in West Yorkshire, it was a big event. We spent weeks beforehand collecting wood and sitting around telling ghost stories, eating potatoes charred on the outside and raw inside after their ordeal by makeshift camp fire. There was toffee, bonfire toffee, sticky enough to challenge even the strong young teeth I had then. The Parkin didn't come till later, in the kitchen at home.
The big night on the 5th involved setting off any fieworks we had managed to scrounge together. When they were exhausted the bonfire became the focus of our attention for a while. It's amazing how one side of your body, the part facing the fire, can crackle with heat whilst the other side is lashed by the cold November air. I remember too that when I finally got home the quality of the tungsten light in the kitchen always seemed very stark after being outside in the dark so long. Even odder though was that there was obviously some sort of temporal hiccough. The kitchen clock said it was still only half past seven when we got home yet the evening had lasted ages and ages. How could that be? The long, cold and dark, dark autumnal evenings of my youth were scented with smoke.
A pal in Peterborough sent me an email this evening to say it was 2ºC. Traditional sort of Bonfire Night temperature I thought. Here in Spain I'd commented to Maggie as I came in that it was a bit parky at just 13ºC.
Last week of course it was Halloween. I saw lots of signs of that. Children dressed up parading around the streets, bars covered with cobwebs. It's an event that has passed me by over the years. It hardly existed in my childhood and as I have neither children nor grandchildren I haven't learned how it's done. My knowledge of Halloween comes largely from dodgy horror movies.
I did ask my students what they did on Halloween but as most of them are very young and their English is pretty basic the level of information I got back was scanty. Several were dressed up as mummies, zombies, vampires and witches. The interesting thing was that when I asked what they had done, expecting some sort of description of tricking and treating, the almost universal answer was that they had eaten. Pizza was popular, seafood moreso. Lots told me of prawns and clams.
This is excellent news. No Spanish festivity of any kind is complete without food. Lots of the British people I know complain that Halloween is a US import though I understand that the original celebration began in Ireland and went to the US via those long queues at Ellis Island. It may be a US export but in Spain it seems to have been subverted into yet another opportunity to feast.