Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guy Fawkes, the sequel

"You think [God's] not up there? You think he's not watching over this country? How else can you explain it? He tested us, but we came through. We did what we had to do. Islington. Enfield. I was there, I saw it all. Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists. Disease-ridden degenerates. They had to go. Strength through unity. Unity through faith. I'm a God-fearing Englishman and I'm goddamn proud of it!" ~ from the movie "V for Vendetta"

It's been a Guy Fawkes kind of week. After the chaotic and explosive celebrations in Lewes from my last post, I stumbled across the Somerset Carnival in the beautiful small city of Wells, and again the next night in Glastonbury. What they call carnival we would call a parade, where giants floats do a procession through town ostensibly to raise money for charity. The origins go back to the Guy Fawkes celebration, though it looks more like something you'd see at Disneyland. (There weren't torches or fire pits you could fall into - it wasn't even dangerous!) The floats ranged from small and cheesy to giant and cheesy.

I wondered about the masks that protesters were wearing at the Occupy Wall Street protests, and learned that they were from the movie "V for Vendetta." With visions of Guy Fawkes already dancing in my head, I watched that movie, which had Mr. Fawkes as a principal character. Two weeks ago I couldn't have told you who Guy Fawkes was, and now I'm quasi-obsessed.

What's the difference between Guy Fawkes, reviled annually for 400 years, and the revered George Washington, with his image on United States currency? George Washington won.

Love to you,
Dave

p.s. I forgot in my last posting to include a link to more photos from Guy Fawkes night in Lewes.


I'm driving down the road, minding my own business, when I see a sign for Stonehenge. Um, yeah, you betcha I'm going there, especially since it was only 10 miles away. I'd been once before, in 2004, so I just stopped briefly and took a few snaps.



I met up with my friend Bryony in the town of Wells, Somerset, in the west of England. She and I traveled for three months in England and Scotland in 2004. Wells is beautiful, and has a spectacular cathedral, which makes no sense to me considering the population is 10,000 people. I've never seen a church with so much decoration, both inside and out.



Look how modern the "scissors" supports in the center look. It must be relative new, no? Incredibly, it was added to the existing building in 1338 as a way to support the sinking foundations. It's staggering to me that they had the technology, the math, and the skill to pull that off.



This clock has worked continuously since 1390. It also tracks the lunar calendar. They don't come out and say that the original mechanism is now in London, (where it still works.) (Thanks Wikipedia. )



Some of the many elaborate carvings inside the cathedral.



Bryony is looking up at the ceiling of the Chapter House, where monks met for talks about "business," as the sign said. ("Who should we burn at the stake today?!") This room was completed in 1306.



The ceiling of the Chapter House.



A beautiful old door.



What do you call this? Well, it's one of those, and that's stained glass in the background.



This beautiful building houses the music school, just across from the cathedral.



The little fair in the center of Wells.



There are people inside this fair ride.



This is the Bishop's Palace, home of the Bishop for 800 years. Just after I took this photo I met a local couple who told me about the carnival, which we'd call a parade, that was starting in an hour.



Massive, over-the-top "carts," which we'd call floats, are limited to 100 feet long! All the large ones incorporate a massive generator to power the light bulbs that you could probably see from Las Vegas.



Everyone had a theme, even if it didn't make any sense. This man might have been Cyndi Lauper with gills. Maybe.



I'll stop guessing now.











This was the first of the floats that were a "diorama," where all the characters were frozen. That's a tough way to spend two hours, I'd think.



An English person next to me commented that lots of the floats had American themes: Old West, hillbillies, Disney, etc. I hadn't noticed, but it was true.







By now it was POURING rain. English people don't get wet in the same way I do. I've used this line 100 times since I got here: "I'm from California, and I don't even go outside when it's raining. I wait until it's over." Unfortunately, that's a true statement, but I'm trying to learn new habits. I was dripping by the time this event was over, so I guess I'm learning.







Now for an afternoon in Glastonbury, the Berkeley of England. This hill is known as Glastonbury Tor, and people have been coming here for worship for 10,000 years, apparently. It rises, naturally, almost 500 feet from the surrounding flat plains, and it's a fantastic view. There's the ruins of a church on the top. The last abbot of Glastonbury, in 1539, was dragged by horses to the top on the hill, then hung, for "uncertain reasons," then drawn and quartered. Thank goodness we no longer kill people for uncertain reasons.



The view from the Tor as I headed back down into town.



In the evening, the even larger Glastonbury Carnival begins, this time on a dry evening.







I'm still having nightmares about this guy. The entire float was wearing those creepy contacts, or maybe that's just how they look, and that's why they were on the float.



The song accompanying these gals was "Get Down On It" by Kool and the Gang. Really.



Insert your own caption here.



This was an Old West float.



This little girl kinda freaks me out, but I think I could take her. The more I look, the less I'm sure.



This float wins for the best make-up and funniest unchanging expressions.



I'll bet his jaw ached after holding this pose for a couple of hours.



Such a nice portrait, except for that whole mouth thing, which she was holding.



Ghouls.



I know that look. He spends too much time on the computer.







Strawmen? Scarecrows? Hillbillies? Pig farmers?



The most amazing float to me. Every part of this contraption was moving.



There were four amazingly life-like elephants on each side, each of which moved quite a bit, plus the guy in front is bustin' a move on a platform that spins circles with four people on it. Incredible.


(The End)

7 comments:

Tom Pappas said...

Enjoy your pics a lot. Thanks for posting. 

Ralph Austin said...

Good stuff Dave.  Both my parents are from England and my heritage is all English/Scotish so I enjoy all the pictures and information.  I need to go spend some time in those countries to experience it first hand.

Laurie-Ann said...

A side of England I've never known about.  Thanks for the great photos and humorous captions.  I love the pictures of the cathedral - wow.

Tom Pappas said...

Guessing the men carved in the cathedral are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They sometimes do the reformers but the math, and attire isn't right.

Stonehenge is very cool; was there in 1997. We have Carhenge in Nebraska. Look it up if you're unfamiliar. Weird tribute and it's for sale at the moment.

Rick said...

Fantastic post incredible photos! 
I never knew that the Guy Fawkes celebrations were this extravagant.  When I was in Wells and Glastonbury both towns were quite sedate with not a hippie in sight. I didn't know they burned him in effigy either but I'lll bet that Burning Man somehow morphed from this old tradition. The movie was so violent it lost me but these celebrations have that wonderful English folly sense of humor that was unleashed to the world through Monty Python.Watch out for the rain though since here in California they declare emergencies if one drop actually hits the ground.

Sonia said...

oooh lovely, Wells and Glastonbury!
My uncle's partner (uncle now dead) lives in Wells. He was a news presenter for the BBC World Service for years and has a magnificent reading voice. For years now he has done readings in cathedrals, and so often in Wells cathedral.

My grandmother lived in Glastonbury, I went there for years every summer, had a good friend there, a lovely hippie town. Watched the sun rise at 5am from the Tor at the Summer Solstice, with people drumming and much pot-smoking everywhere...And went the the Pilton festival twice of course (the only place where the huge Glastonbury Festival is known as the Pilton festival is in Glastonbury itself - since the festival is actually in Pilton).

Thanks for the memories!

Dave Adair said...

Oops - I just realized that somehow I didn't thank you lovely commenters for your posts. Thank you! It's fun to go back and see these photos, too. It seems like a long time ago, and very far away from India, where I am now. I should be back in England by the end of May, when I go back and pick up my van. It's parked in a barn in Seaford, due south of London...