Remember, Remember...

Today, my favorite readers, you get a bit of a history lesson...

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November."

Sound familiar? You may have heard it before, it's a widely celebrated holiday here in the UK and we were introduced by way of an illustrous fireworks show in Aberdeen. As soon as dusk set (about 4pm), people were avidly setting off fireworks of their own--it looked like the town was spouting colorful electric sparks all night long. (As I write this now, there are still fireworks going off! Someone must not have used up their stash this weekend.) The City of Aberdeen hosted their own nighttime spectacular set to Doric music (local Scottish tunes) around 7:30, which we watched from a bridge over the River Dee.

The holiday also prompted us to look up a few details on the big night and why it's observed. Turns out, it's basically an event celebrating the close escape of a gunpowder plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605. The attack was planned by a group of Catholic conspirators, which included the most notable conspirator, the legenedary Guy Fawkes -- the holiday is sometimes referred to as "Guy Fawkes Night." It was a compulsory holiday in the UK (until 1859) marking the the deliverance of the King of Great Britain. In addition to fireworks, the Fifth of November was also celebrated by building bonfires and burning "guys" or "effigies" (aka dummies or mannequin-like figures) of Guy Fawkes.

Long ago, kids used to create their own effigies and sit with them on the sidewalks with signs reading "a penny for the guy" to collect coins from passersby for fireworks. But that particular custom has ended, partly because it was seen as begging and partly because children can't buy their own fireworks.

I also knew I'd heard the line "Remember, remember, the fifth of November" in a movie... some of you may have seen V for Vendetta with Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. It was loosely based on the original 1980s comic book series of the same name set in a dreary UK society in the "future" of the '90s. According to Wikipedia, it's about "a mysterious anarchist who calls himself V, who works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters. The series depicts a near-future Britain after a limited nuclear war, which has left much of the world destroyed. In this future, a fascist party called "Norsefire" has arisen as the ruling power. V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and theatrical campaign to bring down the government. Warner Bros. released their film adaptation in 2005."

Here's one of the classic poems about the holiday:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

I shall now switch topics from old history to new buildings... new centres to be exact! Friday night Mike and I made our way to the new Union Square centre. It's loaded with shopping and restaurants and a soon-to-open M&S store (Marks and Spencers, sorta like Macy's but also with a complete grocery store inside). Oh, and there's a new 10-screen Cineworld movie complex as well. I still am at a loss at to how they find so much room for some of these massive buildings, but appreciate it nonetheless. Just about all the same stores and restaurants are doubled just a few blocks away on Union Street, so I'm surprised at how close they are, but they seem to love the same ole stores everywhere -- M&S, Primark, Debenham's, Next, New Look and H&M.

There were a few stores not yet open and I'm really excited about those: The Limited and Hollister! UK peeps love love love Abercrombie. A lot of the guys Mike works with wear it religiously... it reminds me of the solid colored t-shirts you wore back in high school with the name "Abercrombie" stitched across the front. Here, it's so in style and they love it. Apparently a lot of folks do tons of shopping when they visit New York (cheapest flights from UK) and that must be where they load up on the look. I haven't seen anything even similar to an Abercrombie store until I saw the sign for the Hollister spot that'll open in Union Square.

Back to Friday night, we decided to try out Frankie & Benny's for dinner. It's just like the name sounds, a sort of Italian-American type place that seems like it was born in Chicago. (I didn't bother looking it up, so just a guess.) We had some ribs and BBQ chicken and jackets (baked potato) but I wasn't very impressed with the food. I was happy to find out they served Coors Light though and enjoyed some with dinner, a little slice of home! Afterwards we went next door to Chiquitos (Scotland's version of a Mexican food joint, the music sounds more like a wierd Mexican jazz) and enjoyed some Mexican beers. You don't get many of those here -- although some of the speciality stores carry them -- but Corona is almost always available anywhere. Another one of those funny things you wouldn't have guessed would be so popular here!

Saturday we went back for some more shopping and discovered that the nearby harbour doesn't lend a very nice aroma to the air. The dock for all the barges and freight ships is literally across the street and a rotten fish smell wafts through the air and easily into the shopping center. Gross!

Today we stocked up on groceries at Asda and browsed all the Christmas decorations, everything's out in full force! We bought a £3 tree, which will be the perfect height for our little flat and I plan to hang some of the Texas Christmas ornaments I brought on it. I also pulled out a few other things I had packed in our shipment and it'll be feeling like the holidays in no time. Too early for Christmas music? I think not!

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