For my last lesson on Thursday afternoon I decided to "do" Bonfire Night. In small groups, the students started to match randomly arranged keywords to their dictionary meanings. We had no trouble with "Roman Catholic" and "Gunpowder" but there was less confidence when it came to "plot" and "treason", and "firework" and "bonfire". Curiously "potatoes" and "soup" were also easily muddled.
We read a passage about Guy Fawkes, his capture and the consequences, and about bonfire night traditions like kids collecting a "penny for the guy". The second-years were fascinated. It was their last lesson before "breaking-up" for Eid but there was not a hint of restlessness. They were intrigued with the idea that in Britain we once had religious differences, the torturing of prisoners, plots, treason, and explosives being found. They even liked the ambiguity of celebrating the day either because disaster was avoided or in admiration of the audacious bravery.
I asked them if they thought it could happen again today? "Oh no," they shook their heads, "the security service would not allow it."
"But how could you do it today?" I provocatively persisted.
"You could drop bombs?" someone suggested. The discussion concluded that as with the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th there was always room for the unexpected and it could well happen today. So would we call Guy Fawkes a terrorist? (yes) and was he perhaps the first? (no, someone far nastier had sacked Alexandria and turned the Nile red with blood long before).
"Has anything like the 'Gunpowder Plot' ever happened in Sudan?"
"Oh no, definitely not" changed begrudgingly when I reminded them that only last month the leader of the opposition had been arrested for plotting treason, and that a number of arms stashes had been "discovered" in and around Khartoum.