I’m sure it can’t just be me that seems to have a few packets of sparklers lying around after bonfire night. I always seem to end up buying armfuls of the things in preparation for the fifth of November, and when it comes to the actual night it is invariably so bloomin’ cold that we end up shuffling indoors with several packets still unopened. Fortunately they don’t seem to have ‘Use By’ dates on them, so we sometimes use them on New Year’s Eve, or on birthdays.
But here’s a suggestion. You could use them today. Why? Because today is the 27th January.
So on the face of it that might not seem like a terribly good reason, but back in 1606, the 27th January would have been a huge day. Had they had television back then the chances are that many millions of faces would be glued, newspapers being read, and every water cooler, or water barrel, would have had people gathering around swapping thoughts and guesses.
Why? Because the 27th January 1606 was the day when the trial began for Guy Fawkes. Having been caught, and his plot foiled back on 5th November, it wasn’t until nearly the end of January before the trial began. It didn’t last long. In fact Guy Fawkes only has four more dinners to go before he doesn’t have to worry about whether he left the front door open or the tap running. Ever.
In a way it almost seems odd that we celebrate Bonfire Night on 5th November, because that’s only the day the plot was foiled, and the suspects caught. It was today that those suspects we out on trial, and Thursday 31st when they met their fate. So if you have a few sparklers left, why not nip outside and have a wiggle and a wave for Mr Fawkes.
After your last sparkler has sputtered into darkness you’ll probably head back inside to the warmth of home, and will switch on the light. As you do so, you’re unwittingly marking another important occasion. Because on this same day, 27th January, 1880, Thomas Edison filed a patent for something he called an ‘incandescent lightbulb’.
So in a way, today is all about bright sparks.
Although today is also the day when, in 1984, Michael Jackson’s scalp caught fire and was seriously burned due to faulty pyrotechnics being used in a television advert for Pepsi. Bright sparks aren’t always welcome!